And Be mostly succeeds in its balance of commerce and conscience themes, although it's less exciting than the try-anything, College Dropout-like triumph it might have been. Unfair as it is to compare the two albums, Be labors under an audible pressure not to offend: The soul samples and riffs are warm, inviting, and too often predictable. The title track, the lovely, propulsive "Go," and "Real People," which sounds like the group Chicago, are the standouts among a batch of very low-key West productions. Thankfully, Common himself doesn't seem affected by his sometimes bland backing; the conflation of religious and romantic love on "Faithful" and the courtroom tension of "Testify" make highlights out of merely OK jams, and -- now that he's shed his habit of proselytizing -- his uncommonly strong rhymes have never sounded stronger.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.