A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Common is often described in the past tense: He used to be called \"Common Sense\"; he used to be Erykah Badu's boyfriend. Now, along with colleague Kanye West, he has produced BE, a CD that is every bit as uncomfortably explicit as it is intelligent and fascinating. Depending on the track, you'll get messages of astute political commentary, mom's church-going values, nasty sex, gooey love, drugs and violence, or a morality tale with a surprise ending (In \"Testify,\" a wife, testifying at her husband's trial, laughs as he is pronounced \"guilty as charged\" -- turns out she's the one who did it). There's beautiful soulful singing, hard-edged macho posturing, inclusive inspirational messages, and lyrics that go for the jugular -- the artist obviously delighting in their shock value.
Is it any good?
If Common's message is all over the place, his music is not. The whole CD is musically consistent and focused; a strong, controlled producer's hand is evident. The songs sparkle with unusual vividness and tasteful production. One production high point is the sentimental ending of "It's Your World," in which children's voices are heard, saying what they want to be when they grow up. Whether empowering/preachy or explicit/offensive, Common has a lot to say -- and it turns out he says it very well. It's just not appropriate for kids.