Be (Common album)

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Studio album by Common
Released May 24, 2005
Recorded 2003–2005
Sony Music Studios
(New York, New York)
Encore Studios
(Burbank, California)
Pay Jay
(Clinton Township, Michigan)
Genre Hip hop, neo soul, quiet storm, jazz rap, spoken word
Length 42:33
Label GOOD, Geffen
Producer Kanye West, J Dilla
Common chronology
Electric Circus
Finding Forever
Singles from Be
  1. "The Food"
    Released: October 8, 2004
  2. "The Corner"
    Released: March 1, 2005
  3. "Go!"
    Released: June 14, 2005
  4. "Testify"
    Released: September 27, 2005
  5. "Faithful"
    Released: October 8, 2005

Be is the sixth studio album by American rapper Common, released May 24, 2005 on GOOD Music and Geffen Records. Primarily produced by hip hop artist Kanye West, the album debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 album chart with 185,000 copies sold in its first week.[1] It is Common's second album to sell over 500,000 copies (over 800,000 copies sold) and was certified Gold by the RIAA. Be was also a critical success, receiving general praise and accolades from several critics and music publications. The album received a perfect "XXL" rating from hip hop publication XXL magazine.[2]



Be was touted as Common's comeback album after the commercially disastrous Electric Circus. His previous album lacked promotion following MCA Records's absorption under Geffen. His new alliance with Kanye West helped to spark public interest in the project, as the album was produced by West and released by his own label GOOD Music. "I met Kanye in '96…" he said. "He was still in high school. He used to come around No I.D.'s house, a guy that used to produce for me. The thing I noticed about Kanye was that he could really rap! He had some kind of hunger that I hadn't really seen before."[3]

"He's today's Marvin Gaye of rap," West enthused on a DVD accompanying a deluxe edition of Be. "Buy the album. If you in a situation where you can barely buy groceries, burn the album."

The results show that Common was clearly aware, and perhaps agreeing, with the negative criticisms about Electric Circus. In comparison to that album, Be is lean, immediate, and commanding, yet also restrained in its musical ambitions. Many[who?] believe it to be his safest album, although Brooklyn native rapper Israel The ILLa Real has stated that Be has influenced him in making his first album "I Fell In Love With H.E.R." Of the reaction to the album, the rapper said: "I don't think Electric Circus was as focused. Though I'd done some progressive hip-hop, people know me as the b-boy. When I showed them something different, a different style of b-boy, there were like, "Hold up. You can be Afrocentric, but what's this rock shit that you're doing?"[4] Many of the beats created by West, and which Common rejected for the project, later appeared on West's studio album Late Registration.

Title significance[edit]

In an interview with, Common denied that the album title stood for "Before Erykah."[5] Common explained the concept and the album title in a 2005 interview for


"The Corner"[edit]

Common gave his reasons for featuring controversial spoken word recording artists, The Last Poets, on the album's first official single, "The Corner": "They gifted at writing. They voices is incredible. They took my song to a higher level. And that's what hip-hop was about to me. It would have a message. It would take you to the next place. It was fresh as people say -- something new. They brought newness to what "The Corner" was and they also brought some nostalgia, too. Just them being from the '70s and being used in hip-hop and their spirit brought something pure to it. They gave me a better understanding of the corner after that. I knew those who had been listening to hip-hop would know who the Last Poets were and if they didn't they would feel it in their souls sooner or later. And I also felt good about introducing some of the youth to the Last Poets."[4]


From the album Be

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Go" was the album's second, and highest charting single. The song featured Kanye West and John Mayer, however all the verses are performed by Common. The video for the song included shots of Common surrounded by numerous models.


The album's third single, "Testify" received a type of promotional video known as a "mini-movie"; a term coined by Michael Jackson to describe a music video with a complex plot and a suitably long running time, often with intermissions between the song's parts. The video featured acting parts from Taraji P. Henson, Bill Duke, Steve Harris, and Wood Harris, and received notable spins on specialist channels such as MTV2. The song samples "Innocent Til Proven Guilty" by Honey Cone.


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic (83/100)[7]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[8]
Robert Christgau (3-star Honorable Mention)[9]
Entertainment Weekly A−[10]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[11]
Vibe 4.5/5 stars[12]
Pitchfork Media (8.6/10)[13]
HipHopDX 4.5/5 stars[14]
PopMatters 8/10 stars[15]
Q 4.5/5 stars[16]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[17]
XXL 5/5 stars[18]

Critical response[edit]

The album so far has a score of 83 out of 100 from Metacritic based on "universal acclaim".[7] XXL gave it a score of XXL (equivalent to all five stars) and said, "While label support and the times heavily influence whether great music can be crowned a classic, if nothing else Common has created a flawless album. By giving us himself completely and speaking to and for us as complete people, he's birthed the total package. Common has raised the bar. Hopefully, a year from now we'll look back and see that MCs have been rhyming like Common since.[19] Vibe gave it a score of four-and-a-half stars out of five and said that it "gets to the root of human experience--all the while staying beautifully soulful and funky."[20] The New York Times gave it a favorable review and said it was "certainly a triumph, but if it isn't quite the all-time classic Common was hoping for, that's because it sounds a bit too straightforward."[21] Tiny Mix Tapes gave it a score of three-and-a-half out of five stars and said, "Regardless of the modernist leanings of Kanye's techniques, the album retains an organic feel that rivals Com's hemp beanie and Erykah Badu's incense."[22] Q also gave Be four-and-a-half out of five stars and considered it to be Common's best album.[7]

Common's lyrics on Be earned him the Lyricist of the Year award at the 2006 BET Hip Hop Awards. In 2012 Complex called the album one of the classics of the last decade.[23]

Grammy Nominations[edit]

Be was nominated for four 2006 Grammy Awards:

Track listing[edit]

# Title Songwriters Producer(s) Featured performer(s) Sample Length
1 "Be" (Intro) L. Lynn
K. West
J. Poyser
Kanye West J. Poyser (keyboards)
D. Hodge (acoustic bass)
  • "Mother Nature" by Albert Jones
2 "The Corner" L. Lynn
K. West
A. Oyewole
U. Hassan
L. Moore
Kanye West Kanye West
The Last Poets
3 "Go!" L. Lynn
K. West
John Mayer
L. Lewis
Kanye West J. Mayer
Kanye West
DJ A-Trak (scratches)
N. Amuntehu (percussion)
4 "Faithful" L. Lynn
K. West
D. Rogers
Kanye West Bilal
J. Legend
J. Poyser (keyboards)
K. Lewis (sample recreation)
  • "Faithful to the End" by DJ Rogers
5 "Testify" L. Lynn
K. West
A. Bond
G. Johnson
G. Perry
Kanye West 2:36
6 "Love Is..." L. Lynn
J. Yancey
A. Gaye
M. Gaye
J. Nyx
E. Stover
J Dilla Luna E
J. Poyser (all instruments)
7 "Chi-City" L. Lynn
K. West
E. Cornelius
Kanye West Kanye West
DJ A-Trak (scratches)
DJ Dummy (scratches)
8 "The Food" (Live) L. Lynn
K. West
S. Cooke
S. McKenney
E. Record
Kanye West Kanye West
DJ Dummy (scratches)
9 "Real People" L. Lynn
K. West
C. Frazier
Kanye West
  • "Sweet Children" by Caesar Frazier
10 "They Say" L. Lynn
K. West
J. Stephens
T. Bell
L. Epstein
Kanye West John Legend
Kanye West
11 "It's Your World (Part 1 & 2)" L. Lynn
J. Yancey
J. Poyser
K. Riggins
L. Lynn
R. Curington
W. Lestor
J Dilla
James Poyser (co)
Karriem Riggins (co)
L. Lynn
"The Kids"
K. West (keyboards)
J. Poyser (keyboards and strings)
K. Riggins (percussion)
  • "Share What You Got" by The Modulation


Chart (2005) Peak
Canadian Albums Chart 1
U.S. Billboard 200 2
U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums 1
U.S. Billboard Top Rap Albums 1


Year Single Chart Position
2005 "GO!" Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks 31
Hot Rap Tracks 21
The Billboard Hot 100 79
"Testify" Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks 44
"The Corner" Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks 42

(*) designates lists that are unordered.


The information regarding accolades attributed to Be is adapted from[24]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Aftenposten Norway Albums of the Year 2005 #18
AllMusic USA Albums of the Year 2005 * USA Albums of the Year 2005 #37
Associated Press USA Albums of the Year 2005 #7
B92 Serbia Albums of the Year 2005 #7
Billboard USA Albums of the Year 2005 #5
Dagbladet Norway Albums of the Year 2005 #13
Dagsavisen Norway Albums of the Year 2005 #18
E!Online USA Albums of the Year 2005 #17
Expressen Sweden Albums of the Year 2005 #17
Go-Mag Spain Albums of the Year 2005 #17
H Magazine Spain Albums of the Year 2005 *
HARP USA Albums of the Year 2005 #33
Hip Hop Connection UK The 100 Greatest Rap Albums 1995-2005 2005 #69
Iguana Spain Albums of the Year 2005 #3
Laut Germany Albums of the Year 2005 #42
Monitor Croatia Albums of the Year 2005 #34
Musik-Express/Sounds Germany Albums of the Year 2005 #36
Musikbyrån Sweden Albums of the Year 2005 #12
Natt & Dagg Norway Albums of the Year 2005 #14
OOR Netherlands Albums of the Year 2005 #12 USA Albums of the Year 2005 *
Piccadilly Records UK Albums of the Year 2005 #4
PopMatters USA Albums of the Year 2005 #12
prefix Magazine USA Albums of the Year 2005 #19
Pure Pop Mexico Albums of the Year 2005 #5
Q USA Albums of the Year 2005 #42
Rock de Lux Spain Albums of the Year 2005 #9
Rolling Stone USA Albums of the Year 2005 #21
Spex Germany Albums of the Year 2005 #12
Spin USA Albums of the Year 2005 #17
The Observer UK Albums of the Year 2005 #25
The Village Voice USA Albums of the Year 2005 #15
URB USA Albums of the Year 2005 *
Vibe USA Albums of the Year 2005 *
WOXY USA Albums of the Year 2005 #58
Zundfunk Germany Albums of the Year 2005 #22

Unused Tracks[edit]

  • So Cool (produced by Sa-Ra) appears on the import version of the album.
  • My Way Home (produced by Kanye West) appears as a Common solo track on Kanye West's album Late Registration.
  • Be (Intro) (produced by J Dilla) appears on the mixtape Laced With Gems by DJ Eves.
  • Pimpin' (produced by J Dilla) appears on the mixtape Laced With Gems by DJ Eves.


  1. ^
  2. ^ XXL (2007). "Retrospective: XXL Albums". XXL Magazine, December 2007 issue. 
  3. ^ Mobo Awards tenth anniversary brochure, 2006
  4. ^ a b PopMatters Music Interview | Resurrection: Common Walks
  5. ^ Hamilton, Tiffany. "AllHipHop Feature - Common: Invocation". Archived from the original on April 5, 2007. Retrieved April 28, 2007. 
  6. ^ "Common Interview at". Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved April 28, 2007. 
  7. ^ a b c Critic reviews on Metacritic
  8. ^ Be (Common album) at AllMusic
  9. ^ Robert Christgau review
  10. ^ Fiore, Raymond (2005-05-27). "Be Review". Entertainment Weekly: 136. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  11. ^ The Guardian review
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Pitchfork Media review
  14. ^ [2]
  15. ^ PopMatters review
  16. ^ [3]
  17. ^ Rolling Stone review
  18. ^ [4]
  19. ^ XXL review
  20. ^ Vibe review
  21. ^ The New York Times review
  22. ^ Chadwicked (2005). "Common - Be". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  23. ^ "Common, Be (2005) — 25 Rap Albums From the Past Decade That Deserve Classic Status". Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  24. ^ "Be at". Retrieved April 27, 2007. 

External links[edit]