Review Summary: Best rap album in the last three years.
Hip-hop has entered its most uncertain period of its history, in which the million-dollar question is asked: is this snap/crunk hybrid of pop rap going to dominate mainstream hip-hop, or is rap going to make a quality comeback, thinking less of radio airplay and more on the simple catchiness, smoothness, and lyrical genius that hip-hop was once synonymous with? Well, if Lil Jon continues to NOT make records, and Common does, I think we're heading down the right track.
Common is unlike any other rapper out there at the moment, and it's even more surprising that his albums have sold well since Like Water For Chocolate became his commercial breakthrough. BE definitely won't break this winning streak. Common's rapping style is more soulful than the competitions, with less mindless yelling, while still keeping a engaging intensity that resonates the perfect light soul-styled electronic beats. He barely even speaks a chorus here, with soul samples subsituting where mindless hooks would once be.
The first track, and the enivitable intro, is less of just that than just another song on the album. This song, which shares its name with the album, is a good indication of what the rest of the album is like. The next track, "The Corner" is the best song on the album, and it really shines lyrically. Just read this:
Streetlights & deepnights cats trying to eat right
Riding no seat bikes with work to feed hypes
So they can keep sweet Nikes they head & they feet right
Desires of streetlife cars & weed types
It's hard to breath nights days are thief like
The beast roam the streets the police is Greeklike
Game at it's peak we speak & believe hype
Bang in the streets hats cocked left or deep right
Its steep life coming up where sheeplike
Common is not like most other rappers. and this is a great indication. Not since Illmatic has a man had been able to conjure up actual images, an actual story, an actual feeling of what it's like being on those desolated streets, whether it's New York, Chicago (where Common's from), or Los Angeles. Every song is like this, every song drifts you away to another place, until the 42 minutes that this album consists of passes, and you just want to press the repeat button and drift away all over again.
I've listened to a lot of rap in my life, I've discovered Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Kanye West, and so many others that I look up to, and I've thrown away and disowned albums by 50 Cent, Diddy, Nelly, and Paul Wall. I know a good album when I hear one, and I don't really give a *** if you find my review slightly fanboy-ish. It's taking me a while to find the next great thing in rap, hell, MUSIC, and Common's BE is just that. A lot of reviews by people are track-by-tracks, which are boring and lazy. Hip-hop artists create albums hoping people don't write track-by-tracks, as they write two good songs in a twenty-track record. With Common's BE, the album gels like an actual ALBUM. And this is probably the highest praise you can give to a hip-hop album in these dark musical times.