Recordings: Common – Be

Common has always been an MC able to unite the “backpack rap” crowd with the grimy, hip-hop purists. This reputation as being somewhat of a rapper’s rapper has led many, including Common himself, to believe that he is one of the crucial pieces of the hip-hop puzzle, potentially elevating the conscious rapper mentality to the mainstream.

Common – Be

Common seems to see this prospect as a burden . He even goes so far as to compare his “sacrifice” to that of Christ. These spots of self-righteousness, while noteworthy, aren’t overwhelming, and do not detract significantly from the overall quality of the album.

Nine of the 11 tracks are produced by Kanye West, creating an appropriately soulful background for Common’s inspired lyrics. While West’s production is always strong, he is dead weight as an MC, forcing Common to work overtime on the four songs on which he appears to compensate. Common’s lyrical ability is as versatile from similes to storytelling as in previous albums, although not quite as creative or original.

It is too early to tell whether this album will bring together the two halves of hip-hop and bring the game to a higher level, both musically and intellectually. The inherent contradiction to his mission — bringing consciousness to the mainstream while striving to keep this higher level of consciousness esoteric — is the main problem with this album, but Be is a big step toward taking hip-hop out of the clubs and back to the streets.

Common will perform at House of Blues on June 8.