For hip-hop purists, Common and Kanye West's collaboration on Be is akin to the genre's prodigal son meeting King Midas on the road to redemption. A succession of mid-'90s classics -- 1994's Resurrection and 1997's One Day It'll All Make Sense -- established Common as one of the most talented rappers alive. But on 2002's Electric Circus, the Chi-town rapper seemed to have lost his footing and ended up adrift in a messy mixture of arty pretense and gooey hippie-hop. Enter West, keeper of the golden samples. From the swanky wah-wah guitar of "Chi City" to the cooing vocal samples sprinkled throughout, West delivers some of the most satisfying work of his career and provides a perfect backdrop for Common's crystalline imagery and mesmerizing wordplay. On "Food," a reinvigorated Common raps, "Shorties get the game but no instructions to assembling/Eyes bright, it seems like the fight is dimming them." This sense of fatalism is central to Be, and in trying to plot out salvation for the various hustlers and down-and-outers who inhabit the disc, Common has rescued his own career.
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