Common’s back!

MC finally returns to the streets and his roots with “Be”

by Keri Carlson

Lonnie Lynn, better known by his MC name Common, has not only returned home but returned to the planet.

Since the early 1990s, Common has taken a laid-back approach to his rhymes. The rapper explored spirituality and relationships and rejected the typical ultra-masculine, tough MC exterior with gentle soul and soft jazz beats.

Common left us in 2002, leaving behind his smooth indie hop in favor of something different. His album “Electric Circus” blasted off into spacey Parliament heights by bridging louder indie rock, deeper funk and tweak-ier electro.

But on his latest album “Be,” Common has returned to the place he knows best: the windy city.

Appropriately, one of “Be’s” best tracks is “Chi-City,” in which Common announces not only that he has returned but that he’s here to dominate and take over the throne.

“The game need a make over, my man retired, I’m gonna take over,” Common assures.

After Jay-Z’s retirement, the hip-hop world has been left without a clear leader, and if Common is truly planning a Machiavellian conquest, he’s going about it the right way.

“Be” gets major help from Jay-Z’s old sidekick, Kanye West. West uses his signature slick soul licks to make the album move effortlessly along, like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”

West’s production is not as explosive as his tracks for Jay-Z or the ones from his own “College Dropout” album. In fact, “Chi-City” is one of only a few tracks that really jumps out on “Be.”

This is not to say, though, that West is not on par with his best game. Rather, it just means that, like with most of Common’s work in the past, it has to seep into your soul slowly.

“Be” flows at the same pace as Common’s rhymes, which means the music has that easygoing, hanging-out-on-a-sunny-afternoon vibe.

But before you can get too comfortable, Common uses his album to look at the struggles and harsh realities of being black in the modern United States.

On the album’s biggest ode to the street, “The Corner,” Common raps, “We write songs about wrong ‘cuz it’s hard to see right.”

Perhaps because of Common’s voyage away from home, he is able to now return to the streets with a clearer and sharper perspective. This is where Common’s strengths lie, and where he proves again that it just might be him who will step up to fill HOVA’s void.