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.