Extracted from the AOR Vault: Jaruary 2006


Common: Peace, peace!

Lets jump right in! What is the significance of the title BE?

Common: BE means to do without trying hard. BE is about being natural. For this album, I just wanted to create music that felt good and felt right. I wasn’t trying to invent a whole new music or be Mr. Innovative, I really just dealt with what was natural, and all the music for this album was a natural feeling. It felt good and if felt like something I did before, I just let it be. BE symbolizes that: just do without trying hard. You ain’t gotta try hard to be who you are.

Was it a goal to have Kanye West produce the majority of the album, or did it just work out that way?

Common: It worked out that way. It was kind of a subconscious goal in a way. I wanted him and Jay Dee to do the album, and I didn’t know who was going to do the majority of it. Kanye really took it upon himself to work hard and create. We worked a lot and he focused on this album, and our relationship and creativity just started working very well. We created something that was beautiful. He did 9 of the 11 tracks. Jay Dilla did the last two. That combination, what more could I ask for.

What prompted the decision to only have 11 tracks on the album?

Common: I just didn’t want an album that was over-doing it. I feel like people’s attention spans are short anyway right now. Besides that, if you have a really good album, you don’t have to put a whole lot of songs to say what you need to say. I felt that each song said what it had to say, and it completed it’s story with 11 songs. A lot of the classic albums that I followed, whether it’s Nas’ Illmatic, D’angelo’s Brown SugarPaid In Full or Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. They didn’t have so many songs, it’s just the songs there were that powerful. It was that moment.

Out of your body of work, fans were most divided by Electric Circus, how would you personally rank that amongst your albums?

Common: I feel it was the most diverse and out-there album, I can’t say it’s one of the best or weakest. It got the weakest response, but that don’t necessarily make it the weakest. Later on people may respond and say that was some creative stuff, we just weren’t there at that time. I may have taken them too far at that time. I would say that it’s still a good album to me. It wasn’t one of my best if I look at it right now, but it may eventually be something that people say is very, very good. How I feel, it’s still an expression of me at that time. It’s hard for me to say it’s one of my best, but I know this album is one of my best.

Did the response to Electric Circus put any extra pressure on this album?

Common: I let that pressure go and felt like a new artist again. At first there was pressure because there was a lot going on in my life. Whether it was the response to Electric Circus or the breakupwith Erykah (Badu), really just trying to figure out where I am in this industry right now and in this world. Looking at what’s going on in the industry, where will I fit? That created a lot of hunger and focus, it was a blessing. The struggle that I went through and the response to Electric Circus, it allowed me to work harder and be more focused. To be creative and stay hungry, get to the core of who I am.

So much has changed since you made “I Used to Love H.E.R.”, would you ever consider making another version to cover the path of Hip Hop?

Common: Nah, I think “I Used to Love H.E.R.” can relate to what’s happening now. That’s what’s the beauty of real music. Good music can relate anytime. “What’s Going On” could relate to right now, certain songs that Krs-One made like “Love’s Gonna Get ‘Cha” that can still be relative to today’s life.

How do you think you’ve been able to obtain longevity in such an up and down industry?

Common: I think by being myself and being hungry. Creativity and not being afraid to express wherever I am, or afraid to experiment and grow. Just me growing as an individual has allowed people to grow with me as an artist, and not just throwing me away. Really it’s God more than anything, but when it’s explained to the people, it’s me being who I am at that time and people being able to respect that. Whether they say “I love that” or not, it’s like “Damn, that dude is who he is”. After a while, when somebody has your respect you allow them to be there forever.

Do you have any tour plans to go along with the album?

Common: Yeah, I’m gonna go out on tour. I might be doing a tour with Q-Tip in June. After that I’m going out with John Legend in July. We’re going to do a Good Music tour, Kanye, John Legend and myself in September. US and international at a certain point. The album is May 24th so I’ll be doing promotion first. Eventually I’ll be going overseas.

Will bootlegging of the album have any effect on the release?

Common: Nah, not that I see. The Net is only but so many people. The rest will still get the album. Sometimes after people hear that it’s great, they go out and get it even if they do have it on the Net. It is what it is, and fortunately too, they don’t even have the whole album on the Net.

What sort of feedback did you receive after performing “The Food” on Chapelle’s Show?

Common: People were like, “Yo, we love that song “The Food”, I hope you come like that on the album. That’s real hip hop and we’ve been waiting for that”. Saying they feel that in their stomach. That was great response, people were saying I was back, those things.

What’s the state of Hip Hop in Chicago in your opinion?

Common: Hip Hop is flourishing in Chicago. Kanye opened a lot of doors and brought a lot artists and people together. Hip Hop is looking so bright right now, just in general. Us Chicago artists, I think we’re bringing some soul and bringing something new to it that’s timeless. We’ve been working hard and it’s looking good. There’s so many talented artists from Kanye, to myself, Twista, No ID is a producer that’s incredible, Dug Infinite, GLC who’s coming out on Good Music. We got a lot of artists. Rhymefest. There’s some talent there.

Alright, bro. They’re telling us our time is up. Final words?

Common: May 24th, thank ya’ll for support man, and I’m glad to be here.

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