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    Wed, 25 May 2005 12:52:08

    Album Reviews: Be by Common

    As usual, the conscientious Common is anything but, being as he is consistently invested in evolving race relations and inner restoration alike. It doesn't take more than a casual listen to the artist formerly known as Common Sense's new joint to hear that the truth-to-power poets of the past are as much a part of his new-millennium process as are lifestyle hoppers like Kanye West, who executive produced and helped write almost all of Be. The perennially under-recognized Last Poets drop by to help testify to the power of wordplay on "The Corner," while "Love is..." resurrects Marvin and Anna Gaye's "God is Love" as a sonic spine for Common's stripped-down paean to the energy that knits us all together -- and sometimes tears us apart.

    As always, Common keeps the vibe political but personal, making Be a much more accessible effort for the quickly disappearing segment of society that still thinks the two are separate. Sure, things pick up on head-knockers like "Chi City," a shout-out to Common's rugged upbringing in Chicago's draconian South Side, and "The Food," a team-up with Kanye for Dave Chappelle's hilarious Comedy Central show. But overall, West's production on Be steps back and lets Common's postmodern musings on faith, crime and rhyme take center stage. His piety can be tiresome at times, especially when combined, incongruously, with samples of Malcolm X (the same guy who once argued that Allah, not Jesus, would end the "wicked white man's Western world of Christianity"). But there's a lot of food for thought here more nourishing than your average hip-hop joint. - Scott Thill, Morphizm.com

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