Be (Common album)

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Studio album by Common
Released May 24, 2005
Recorded 2004–05
Length 42:33
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 number 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 acclaim and accolades from several critics and music publications. The album received a perfect "XXL" rating from hip hop publication XXL.[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 AllHipHop, 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]


"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.


Critical reviews[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 83/100[7]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[8]
Blender 4/5 stars[9]
Entertainment Weekly A−[10]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[11]
NME 8/10[12]
Pitchfork 8.6/10[13]
Q 4/5 stars[14]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[15]
Spin A−[16]
Vibe 4.5/5[17]

Be received widespread acclaim from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 83, based on 26 reviews.[7] Andy Kellman of AllMusic said, "Be isn't likely to be referred to by anyone as groundbreaking, but it's one of Common's best, and it's also one of the most tightly constructed albums of any form within recent memory."[8] Andy Greenwald of Blender said, "Be picks up where West's The College Dropout left off."[9] Raymond Fiore of Entertainment Weekly said, "Be's leanness signals awesome growth even without pushing sonic boundaries."[10] Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian said, "Though not quite 2005's best hip-hop album - Kanye West retains that honour for himself - Be is a lean and vibrant masterclass in hip-hop fundamentals."[11] NME said, "Gives hope to a hip-hop stuck in a mire of mediocrity."[12] Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork said, "The lack of instant-gratification couplets may disappoint at first, but each verse's rewarding intricacies become more evident with multiple listens."[13] Q said, "Common's best album so far, one that proves hip hop can be both smart and mainstream."[14] Nathan Brackett of Rolling Stone said, "West is the producer Common has been waiting for all of his career: He makes Common both catchier and edgier at the same time."[15] Will Hermes of Spin said, "Even when the music flags, Common's remarkably hungry raps push it along."[16] XXL gave it a score of XXL 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.[18]

Andrew Simon of Vibe wrote that the album "gets to the root of human experience—all the while staying beautifully soulful and funky."[17] The New York Times' Kelefa Sanneh felt that Be 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."[19] 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."[20] Assigning the album a three-star honorable mention rating, Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote that "few of the best moments belong to the main attraction, who's not as wise as they tell him he is."[21]

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.[22] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[23]


The information regarding accolades attributed to Be is adapted from Acclaimed Music.[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
People 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 * USA Albums of the Year 2005 58
Zundfunk Germany Albums of the Year 2005 22

Grammy Nominations[edit]

Be was nominated for four 2006 Grammy Awards:

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Be (Intro)"  
West 2:24
2. "The Corner" (featuring The Last Poets)
West 3:45
3. "Go!"   West 3:44
4. "Faithful"   West 3:33
5. "Testify"  
West 2:36
6. "Love Is..."   J Dilla 4:10
7. "Chi-City"  
West 3:27
8. "The Food (Live)"  
West 3:36
9. "Real People"  
  • Lynn
  • West
  • Frazier
West 2:48
10. "They Say" (featuring Kanye West and John Legend)
West 3:57
11. "It's Your World (Part 1 & 2)" (featuring The Kids)
  • J Dilla
  • Poyser[a]
  • Riggins[a]
Total length:


  • ^[a] signifies a co-producer
  • "The Corner", "Chi-City" and "The Food (Live)" feature background vocals by Kanye West
  • "Go!" features background vocals by John Mayer and Kanye West
  • "Faithful" features background vocals by John Legend and Bilal
  • "Love Is..." features background vocals by Luna E of Cirius B
  • "It's Your World (Part 1 & 2)" features background vocals by Bilal and Mr. Lonnie Lynn

Sample credits[edit]

  • "Be" contains a sample of "Mother Nature" performed by Albert Jones
  • "The Corner" contains the samples of "You Make the Sun Shine" performed by The Temprees and "What It Is" performed by The Temptations
  • "Go!" contains a sample of "Old Smokey" performed by Linda Lewis
  • "Faithful" contains a sample of "Faithful to the End" performed by D. J. Rogers
  • "Testify" contains a sample of "Innocent Till Proven Guilty" performed by Honey Cone
  • "Love Is..." contains a sample of "God Is Love" performed by Marvin Gaye
  • "Chi-City" contains a sample of "Since I Found My Baby" performed by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
  • "The Food" contains the samples of "I Never Had It So Good and Felt So Bad" performed by The Chi-Lites and "Nothing Can Change This Love" performed by Sam Cooke
  • "Real People" contains a sample of "Sweet Children" performed by Caesar Frazier
  • "They Say" contains the samples of "Ghetto Child" performed by Ahmad Jamal and "Papa Wings" performed by Stanley Turrentine
  • "It's Your World (Part 1 & 2)" contains a sample of "Share What You Got" performed by The Modulations


Credits for Be adapted from AllMusic.[25]


Chart (2005) Peak
Canadian Albums Chart[26] 10
US Billboard 200[27] 2
US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[28] 1
US Billboard Top Rap Albums[29] 1


Year Single Chart Position
2005 "Go!" Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs[30] 31
Hot Rap Songs[31] 21
Billboard Hot 100[32] 79
"Testify" Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs[30] 44
"The Corner" Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs[30] 42

(*) designates lists that are unordered.

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. ^ "Common Scores First No. 1 On Billboard 200 | Billboard". Billboard. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  2. ^ XXL (December 2007). "Retrospective: XXL Albums". XXL. 
  3. ^ "MOBO Awards tenth anniversary brochure, 2006". 
  4. ^ a b "Resurrection: Common Walks". PopMatters. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  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 "Reviews for Be by Common". Metacritic. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Kellman, Andy. "Be – Common". AllMusic. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Greenwald, Andy (June 2005). "Common: Be". Blender (37): 113. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Fiore, Raymond (May 23, 2005). "Be". Entertainment Weekly: 136. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Lynskey, Dorian (December 9, 2005). "Common, Be". The Guardian. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Common: Be". NME: 64. June 18, 2005. 
  13. ^ a b Dombal, Ryan (May 31, 2005). "Common: Be". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "Common: Be". Q (228): 114. July 2005. 
  15. ^ a b Brackett, Nathan (June 2, 2005). "Be". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  16. ^ a b Hermes, Will (June 2005). "Common: Be". Spin. 21 (6): 102–03. Retrieved December 31, 2015. 
  17. ^ a b Simon, Andrew (June 2005). "Common: Be". Vibe. 13 (7): 155–56. Retrieved December 31, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Common: Be". XXL. June 2005. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  19. ^ Sanneh, Kelefa (May 25, 2005). "Just What Do Fans Want? A Rapper Ponders His Answer". The New York Times. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  20. ^ Chadwicked. "Common – Be". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  21. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Common: Be". Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Common, Be (2005) — 25 Rap Albums From the Past Decade That Deserve Classic Status". Complex. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  23. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (2010-03-23). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-2074-6. 
  24. ^ "Be at". Retrieved April 27, 2007. 
  25. ^ Be (Media notes). AllMusic. 
  26. ^ "Common – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Common – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  28. ^ "Common – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Common – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  30. ^ a b c "Common – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  31. ^ "Common – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 
  32. ^ "Common – Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved January 30, 2016. 

External links[edit]