Friday, March 12, 2010

Top 50 Albums of the 00s - #28: Common - Be

Yep, we're counting down the top 50. Click here for overview and criteria.

That we've made it this far into the list and are only now getting to a Hip Hop record indicates pretty clearly what I thought of the decade's output in the genre. This isn't the only rap record to make the Top 50, but it is one of just two. Were this same analysis performed on the 80s or 90s, we would find the beats comprising a much bigger part of the mix. Alas, hip hop has really been on a stead decline, with few artists looking to break new ground these days. Call it a Jay-Z-ification if you will, but I just can't get with the "remix an old song by jacking up the bass and then throw some contrived, unintelligent lyrics over the top" thing.

But Chicago's Common had been toiling away in the underground for well over a decade, putting together songs with real weight and intelligence. That certainly didn't do his popularity any favors during the height of faux gangsta posturing. But he was able to build a strong core following and keep pushing his own limits.

The album starts off with a bass riff that would make James Jamerson proud and within a minute, we're deep in Curtis Mayfield territory. For me, that's enough to declare the record successful already. When Common's voice comes into the mix, it is with a heavy authority. This is no party album. My point is that he is totally in control of his instrument, bouncing his way through every track like he'd known them for years. The end result is a cogent treatment of the day buoyed by a fantastic groove.

Soon after the success of this record, Common turned to Gap commercials and crappy sci-fi sequels. So perhaps I shouldn't hold it in such high regard. It pretty much led to the end of his significance. The ironic thing is that listening to this record he sounds like a huge hypocrite. But I don't really give a damn. I can try to ignore those other things and remember how groovy these tracks sounded when I first heard them. The music's just that good.

Previous Entries:
#29 - The Futureheads - News and Tributes
#30 - The Black Keys - Rubber Factory
#31 - Wolfmother - Wolfmother
#32 - Juno - A Future Lived in Past Tense
#33 - Bad Religion - The New America
#34 - Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
#35 - Rodrigo y Gabriela - Rodrigo y Gabriela
#36 - Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
#37 - Crooked Fingers - Red Devil Dawn
#38 - The National - Boxer

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