Timbaland and Missy Elliott. Dré and Eminem. The Neptunes and everybody. Producer and MC partnerships are a big part of hip-hop music. Kanye West has done his fair share, and he is all over fellow Chicago rapper Common’s latest, Be. Maybe a bit too much. You expect him to run rampant on a Jay-Z track, but Common’s records have been understated production-wise (save for the experimental Electric Circus) and this feels too much too soon. Common’s chill but confident flow and thoughtful lyrics are what make him stand out. But he stands out in the wrong way here, like he’s the featured MC on someone else’s album. While it’s great to hear some scratching for once on a hip-hop record, the balance here between MC and producer tips too far away from Common.
—Sean Flinn

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