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Common: Be Transcript

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

Music Rewind welcomes Aaron Whitfield to discuss Be by Common. A great conversation about the seminal album from Common with heavy collaboration from fellow Chicago artist Kanye West.


Album: Be

Artist: Common

Year: 2005



Transcript as follows:

Participant #1:

Hello and welcome to season two of Music Rewind, a podcast where we look to tell the stories behind our favorite albums. I'm your host, Steve Epley, and in each episode, I will invite a guest on them to tell us about their favorite music album, how they discovered it, and what makes it special to them.


Joining me today is a self professed hiphop nerd, Aaron Whitfield. Aaron is an educator, writer, motivational speaker, songwriter, and the host of the Black Introvert podcast. Welcome, Aaron, and thank you for being on the show. Thank you, Steve, for having me. I'm excited to talk music, to talk life and talk connection and definitely buy about some good songs today. Absolutely. Okay, Erin, let's jump right into this. What album did you bring to the table and why is it special to you? I could have brought several albums because when I looked and saw pick your favorite album, that's probably 100 albums, to be honest with. But there are certain albums that I go back to that stay on my phone or stay on my Apple Music podcast or stay on my Apple Music Playlist. And one of those albums is Commons B album sun but drunk like walk like warriors we were never told to run explore the world took a turn to where my soul begun never looking back but too far in front of me the present is a gift and I just want to be be and I picked this album because it reminds me of 19 year old, 20 year old me being in college, having time to sit down and listen to a full album, give it my full attention. And each track on the album is almost a soundtrack to my college years. And that album is really, when I look back at it and as we discuss it, it has so many routes going back years prior to the album's release, so many back stories. And so it's one of my favorite albums for the means for me right now as a 37 year old professional, but also when I was 21, 22, this album meant the world to me. I can see that there's a definite high level of passion that was put into this album. You could tell he had a lot to say. He did. And I think looking at that album, you almost have to go back that album was released in 2005. You almost have to go back to 1996, 97 and some of the pre stories to understand why that album is so important, not only the common, but to just hip hop in general, because hiphop was in a bad place prior to this album's release. And I'll say that specifically for common. In Seven, you have the murders of Tupac and Biggie and that created this almost dark cloud that existed from 98, 99, 2001, 2002, and hip hop in which the music, especially west coast and East Coast music, it wasn't as defined and as we discussed, I think Common took some of that Cloud of darkness and created an album that he put out prior to this album, B. And that album that was poorly received called Electric Circus, spawned this B album which is now considered hip hop classic, if that all makes sense. It does go back to our season one episode with DMX. He kind of filled in that gap. And my knowledge of hip hop is not what yours or others are, but it kind of very angry. What you did here is just very angry. And this particular album did not it was almost like, at times, a spoken word over excellent music with a more concise message of it doesn't have to be angry. This can be poetry, this can be more meaningful. It doesn't have to be just all anger all the time. No, absolutely. It's that period of darkness. It's funny. DMX stands for Dark Man X, but it's that period of darkness from about 99 to 2003 in which the music I feel like hip hop was trying to find his voice again. Was trying to find his heart again. I think hip hop music has always been about speaking for the people. But after the murders of two of your biggest stars, where do you go? And so the voice was lost and the heart was lost. But I also have to give recognition to the Southern hip hop music who sort of maintained hip hop throughout 99. 20 00 20 01 20 02 20 03 they did a good job of carrying it. But hip hop has generally been looked at as sort of an East Coast, West Coast type of music. Those early 2000 years were dark and Common had to go into a dark place, it seems to a place in which, if I look back at his Electric Circuits album, which came out right before the B album three years prior to, he was in a place of discovery, of questioning and of almost a dislike of hip hop. And so out of that came this great album, B. Like I said, it's a classic album. It is a wonderful concept from beginning to end. It's a spoken word album. It is an album of vision, of heart, of love. It's almost the perfect album. And it's crafted by Kanye West, crafted by Jake Dilla. It's just everything that the album should be. It's interesting, you mentioned everything was East Coast and West Coast and then this is literally geographically out of the middle, out of Chicago. Yeah. I don't know if it blends both sides or if it's something completely new on its own. I don't know the field that way. But it's geographically it's just fascinating that both Common and Kanye is Jade Dill out of Chicago as well. Jadilla, it's funny being in the Midwest. J. Dilla is out of Detroit and so the Midwest is overlooked in the East Coast. West coast sort of domination. And it was almost a growing voice. You had mid west acts like Bone Dugs in Harmony out of Cleveland, you had do or Die Twist out of Chicago. But this particular era of hip hop was interesting because you had someone else from the Midwest that was making a lot of noise in hip hop. And that person is Kanye West. And so right around that 2002 time, Kanye West, his name started popping up as an artist and a producer. And his name, his name, his music production, his music caught fire at the very time which Common needed someone to like him and like his album on fire. So at Common's almost lowest point here, you have Kanye West to the rescue, and those two teams together created an incredible album. I hear a lot of Kanye in this. I'm not familiar with all of his catalog, but obviously through The Wire, very popular song, I hear that style in this album on probably half the tracks. It's the early 2000s. It was almost Kanye's signature sound of speeding up soul samples and creating this high pitch. But he did it in such a way, others have tried it, he mastered it. And so it was his sound. And I give him a lot of respect, especially in those early 2000s, even reaching up to this album. In 2005, he crafted this album and the sound, sonically is amazing. I mean, I can't think of another Kanye West produced album which he produced for another artist that sounds as great as this album sounds. So fresh. The samples, the way he chopped them up, even the samples he picked, sonically is beautiful. And I don't think he's reached that sense, especially with another artist. Like this album sounds so organic. It really did bring out the best in Common. I agree. I enjoyed it. I did enjoy this album. My usual process is to listen to the album and then I'll listen to it with the lyrics in front of me and follow along with this. The lyrics are one thing, but I really love the music behind. Like you said, they meshed really well. And that's what I look for. Back then, when I was in my late teens, early twenty s, and I was a kid from the suburbs team, this was a perfect album, perfect time for me to be in hip hop. This was the sort of the age of what they call the backpacker movement in hip hop, or the conscious rapper movement, in which you had artists that weren't professing to be thugs, but they were professing to be intellectuals who were speaking about their own experiences. And I identify with that. I mean, I was from the suburbs, you call it thug, but so much from the suburbs. But with what Common was bringing, with what Kanye was bringing, even the way they dressed with the polo shirts and backpacks, that was my style back then. And that's what I knew. And so you had all these artists at about that 20 03 20 04 20 05 Lupe Fiasco, another one for Rail. You had all these artists that were just creating music that spoke to kids like me, young men like me, young women who wanted something else besides the negative aspects that sometimes glorify. Well put. That's a good way to put it. What I was trying to say earlier, where everything was anger and almost your boilerplate, 40s blunt and bitches, that style. Whereas, like I said, the intellectual, the different approach to this and to hip hop in general and that's why I like it. I think it's very approachable from any walk of life. Yeah, no, it's almost a hip hop R amp, b jazz soul album combined. A lot of soul in there. Absolutely. There's a ton of soul. And I think one of the heavy influences on this album was the neosoul movement that was coming out of Philadelphia at the time with Erica Badu, Jill Scott, that smooth neo soul sound that at the moment in which hip hop was losing his voice in his soul, the neo soul RnB movement was finding his voice and overtaking that sort of lane of hip hop. And so when I listened to this album, when I listened to B, it definitely has a neo soul flair and flavor in which it's just so smooth, it's so easy to listen to. But then the lyrics are 100% hip hop in poetry. So it's a perfect combination of great lyrics, great production, and it really is the album that everyone can get something out of. If you need a love song, you got it if you need a song that's about the life and the city life, you got it you need a song reflection, you have it every sort of emotion was hit on the album. So walk me through the album. How do you listen to it? Is it straight through or is it certain tracks? Straight through. And this is one of the few albums, because it's only eleven tracks, which I remember at the time being annoyed because hiphop used to have to get 20 tracks, 24 tracks on the album. It's like that's what you paid for. And this is back when I was buying CDs. And so to go from buying a CD with 24 tracks to getting a CD with eleven tracks and I'm still paying the same price, I was annoyed on that note. It's funny we talked about earlier before we start recording with some hip hop albums don't age well. And I actually went back and listened to The Chronic again recently. And aside from several stand out songs as I listened to it all the way through, no, the 41 year old me did not enjoy as much as there's a lot of tracks in there that are maybe 30 seconds. Why is that even there? It's a bit of nonsense, a bit of nonsense. A great song, bit of nonsense. Some of the humor doesn't hit as well, but that one didn't age as well to me. Whereas, like you said, eleven tracks. This is pretty perfect. It's pretty perfect. I think that's a challenge with hip hop and also just a challenge with music in general. As we get older, I'll say as I've gotten older, I think my attention span has gotten shorter, but I also believe that my ear has changed. And so some of the messages that I didn't hear before, I hear now. Oh yeah. And some of the themes that I didn't hear before, that tuned out. They're so clear now. And plus, I have a conscience. And so some of my favorite artists, and I still say this, some of my favorite albums from my favorite artists, when I listen to them, it's hard for me to go back and be in that mindset because I'm not there anymore. But this album is one of those albums that from beginning to end, it's eleven tracks, starting with the intro, which, when I'm thinking about intros for albums, this intro, from the plucking of the bass guitar to it builds up a measured level of anticipation from track one. I love the intro. You got that upright bass playing a jazzy scale just up and down and then it's like almost a video game Midi style track that blends in and then the beat keeps going. I love that intro.


Participant #1:

One of the most perfect intros because it built the anticipation up. But then it's almost we got to hear a new voice of Common.


Participant #1:

Prior to this album, he was on a Kanye West song called Get Him High. And it was the first time that as Common fans, we heard Common since his album Electric Circuits, which did not do well, which was still a good album in hindsight, but it just didn't do well. We heard him on Get Them High and he just sounded refreshed. It sounded like new, old Common. And so that you build up a level of anticipation. And so once I heard him on the intro of this album of B, it's like, oh my gosh, he didn't lose it from the Kanye West track. In fact, he gained some because he's talking about who he is as a man. He's talking about having vision. He's talking about just wanting to be in society. I want to be as free as the spirits of those who left. I'm talking about the cold chamber.


Participant #1:

And I think it's so clever, it's so beautiful how he titled his album Be, because I think that's something that a lot of us, included, myself, we all just sort of want to be in our own skin, be in our own place. And so just from Jump, just from the intro, he did a beautiful job of crafting lyrics. I spoke to each person, whoever listens to this album, you're going to get something from the intro, and it just ushers you into track two through eleven. Just a beautiful way. I agree. And then that flows well into track two, The Corner. To my best comprehension w. He's kind of reminiscing about his time in Chicago and how in his roots, where he grew up, it's the perfect blend, the smoothness of the intro. So all of a sudden, you get like this sort of a dumping hip hop soul sample of a beat. It's almost like a yin and a yang down the road.


Participant #1:

He takes it from the introspection of sort of reflecting on self to, now let me talk about the city in which I live and let me talk about the people who are in the city that I live let me give honor to those who raised me, those who are on the corner or those who just are in my life. So he blended it so well. And I remember this is during the days of illegal downloading, so I don't know if I'm going to tell them myself. I've already done a Metallica episode. We're good. Okay. Just to make sure, I downloaded that beat to the corner because it was the drums. Everything about it brought me almost to Chicago. I felt like I was in Chicago on the corner listening to the album, the way he pinned the lyrics and the way he painted verbally on that song on that track. And he painted Chicago in the he painted so well that a kid from the suburbs in Ohio felt like I was there. I felt like I was there. And then on top of that, to have spoken word poetry aspect, yeah, that was neat, because that guy spoke with a confidence like he was standing on a street corner prophesying to anyone who would listen. Yeah, it was the last poet who was a classic, almost classic poetry group from, I believe, like the put them on that track. It just created the perfect narrative of hip hop, of poetry, of really just soul. And so, yeah, it was a perfect blend on that track to just really buy out and really get a Chicago feel of what Kamala was painting. It was absolutely beautiful. And then it kicked it up another notch with Go for track three. This is an interesting song because the story behind Go is that John Mayer, Kanye West and Common all went to go see the movie. Ray, of course, the Ray Charles movie at the time. And they went to go see the movie, and they were inspired by the movie. And so they came back to the studio and crafted Go. And it was John Mayer's idea, who, of course, John Mayer in 20 04 20 05 he was the It guy, and so he came up with the idea. Tolkien and why don't you talk about your fantasies? Talk about your sexual fantasies. And the first comment was against it, but then he went with it. And I love the beat. It's one of those beats that it's just so smooth, but it also picks up the pace of the album. It takes you from the corner to maybe the nightclub, baby, the jazz club. She was grandpa in the bathroom sweat. We had chemistry because she was a cancer. Not forever, it would last. It shifts the vibe of the album just enough and picks up just enough energy of let's go back and let's talk about your sexual fantasy. Let's talk about that. Let's not overlook that sort of side of our life. And so to take the inspiration from the movie Ray, and then to craft it and turn into a beat, and to add John Mayer over a Kanye West hip hop sample beat, can it get any better? At that time, it was unexpected. I could tell you that. It was an unexpected like John Mayers, he's on a Common album. You can't make that up. And perfect song. It's the perfect high energy song to an album that is so smooth. They provided just enough pick me up to get you to the next tracks on the album. Yeah, I like this one. I mean, it was a wild story, definitely picking up a girl in the bathroom and things go from there. Not what I was expecting, but it was definitely a crazy story. He paints the narrative. It's common outside, I think, almost outside of his element just a bit. But I like that compared to the rest of the album. Absolutely. So, yeah, it was unexpected. Yes, it was unexpected. I'm glad he put it on track three, because the sequencing of this album was amazing. It wasn't just random songs scattered about. Each song flowed into one another. And so it seemed like each song was almost at the yin and the yang and just feeding off one another just in such an organic way. So then track four, Faithful. And this is where we get into that Kanye style. The sample sped up. Yes. Yeah. And again, just like through the wire. It works on this song quite well. To go from Go and let's talk about your sexual fantasy to go to Faithful. You changed. Is it up again? Good


Participant #1:

earth for heart glory. I'm grateful to be in our presence. I try to stay


Participant #1:

faithful is almost what I feel like commons Lane was because he spent a long time working with producers such as No ID, who crafted his first couple of albums, who was a wonderful producer, who Kanye West studied under, and then he also worked, of course, with Jadeilla, who Kanye West was heavily influenced by Jade Dilla, who also use soul samples. And so this song, I felt like, was almost his comfort zone. To talk about the human existence, talk a little bit, to talk about faith, to talk about love, to talk about connection and the human connection. I feel like Common this was his voice on this album. I think this one almost set the tone for, I would say, at least for the tracks on this album. Faithful was the beginning of what this album really was truly about. Finding self, being in a place in which you're satisfied with who you are, but also understanding that this world is much bigger than any one individual and that we have to be faithful within it. And on that note, he questions what faithful means in the song. The different verses are kind of different scenarios of what faithful means and the picture he's painting. You have one person that could have one interpretation as far as, oh, yeah, that guy is completely faithful. The next guy down the road is going to say, no, that guy is a dirt bag. He's not faithful at all. Yeah, so you listener interpretation, it's painting the human experience. We are all contradictions. There are so many contradictions that we have within our lifetime. He's painting and telling a story of our perfect imperfections and leaving room for conversations, such as the conversation we're having right now, almost 20 years later. This album is a conversation piece in which you can listen and pull different sort of aspects and have conversation around music and leave it up to the people conversing to sort of decipher what is the true meaning. And so that's where I look at Common as an artist on this album. I said the word painting more than a couple of times, but his artistry allowed him to paint and create these narratives that are still revolt today. And so Faithful is an excellent track that I think, like I said, really sets off the tone of this overall album, at least three to four of the tracks. And then it's worth noting also the backing vocals. You have John Legend in there from our hometown of Springfield, Ohio. Yes, John Legend. Yes. He's on a couple of tracks, I think, for this album. Yes, John Legend was signed to Kanye's good music label. So, yeah, I and Common were both on Kanye's label and he did a wonderful background folk and also Bell, we may talk about later, also does wonderful background vocals on this album, too. Track five, Testify, is one of my favorite ones off the album. I enjoyed this one a lot because this is another crazy ass story. If someone doesn't listen to the whole track, you're not going to get the crazy. But this was a good one. I remember this song when it dropped because it came out. There was a mini movie sort of this is during the age also, let me go back now I got age myself. But this is during the age of music videos in which MTV actually showed music videos all the time. And so now you don't get that on MTV at all. But this mini movie, this music video dropped for Testify. And I had Taraji P henson had Bill Duke really had Wood Harris. It played out exactly like the track. It was almost like I'm really going to age myself. When Michael Jackson used to put out the mini movies with his album, it took you back. It was a little bit nostalgia with that because it wasn't just a music video. There were points in between in which song stopped and you got more context as to what the scene was. And then we'll hop right back into the song and have actual noted actors in the music video made it seem like you were watching a nine minute movie. And it was wonderful. It was just what this album needed. I'm going to check that out after this. I want to see this played out. So, yeah, I'm going to check that out to connect with him. You said our lives for protection.


Participant #1:

This was like the latter end of the age of hip hop music videos. And so Common making this mini movie for this album, I believe he put Testify out as a single, too.


Participant #1:

It was wonderful. And the storytelling aspect of Common was definitely on full display because he can tell some stories. I mean, he really is, as they call him, hiphops. Gil Scott Haron, he is hip hop's poet. He is hip hop's narrator. That's why. Heck, he is the narrator of plenty of companies and people love his voice. And the way he can tell a story is one of a kind. To anyone that hasn't heard the song out there, it's about a woman pleading in court to not lock her love away. And then at the end of the song, the prosecutor realizes that it was all show and she was the mastermind behind whatever he did. The murder and the queen pin. That's great. It was amazing. It was amazing. He did a fantastic job. And like I said, check out the video because it will all come together. Those are listing. Definitely. Check out video then track six, We've got Love is, which I believe this is the J Dilla one. Yeah, one of two J Dilla tracks. Jadilla is an incredible producer out of Detroit who come and actually live with So. They were really good friends and they lived together. They shared an apartment in Los Angeles. And Jay Diller did a lot of the production on Commons prior album Electric Circuits, which was not received well. And so to see the switch to go from a predominantly J Dilla and Quest Love produced Electric Circus album to all of a sudden to a Kanye West produced album with only two J Dilla tracks, initially it looked odd, but this song fit right in and it shows the mastery of J dillon everybody loves so much. I attract. Shay heard of the love of money but compassionate pain. Talk about it with my youth. So she understands what it is to be loved by a man


Participant #1:

during this time. Jay diller. I believe he had lupus. If I go back, I think he died in 2007. And so he put out an instrumental album called Donuts, in which he was literally on his deathbed. And the one thing that he wanted was Donuts. And so for all the listeners out there, go back and listen to this album called Donuts by J. Dilla in which he can't speak. And so he's using the genius of Jay Diller to take tracks and to chop it up. And because he couldn't speak, he would take words from the albums and use the acid voice on this Donuts album. It's incredible, which is why Jay Diller is so highly revered, even more so than Kanye West when it comes to hiphop production. But this song, Love is


Participant #1:

Common in J. Dilla. It's two brothers linking together to produce music that is just so organic. I mean, in listening to this song, I could tell this wasn't the first time they worked together. They had a chemistry. Common new. A few people, I think, can rhyme over a beat like that. That's not your typical hip hop beat. It's a little slow, but it's the perfect beat for Common. And Jay Diller knows that. In Common knows that. And so I look at it as a welcome addition to this album, including using Marvin Gay I Believe as a sample. If you're going to sample somebody, Marvin Gay is a good person. Yeah. Right now, incredible sole record. Just understanding. Two years later, after this release, I believe Jay Dillard is dead. Wow. And so he made these tracks. Wow. These are some last tracks that were given to the mainstream prior to his death. And so this is a special track on this album and I'm glad it's right there in the middle, almost cementing J. Dilla's legacy for listeners, not only 2005, but 2022. Make me want to go back and listen to it, like now. Yeah,


Participant #1:

it's an emotional song. And so this is where I think, once again, going from testify, being on your seat or the edge of your seat with the storyline to testify, to switching up the pace and bringing it back down to the reflective state of love is changing speeds at just the right time. And Love is we'll almost transition to the next track, Shy City, which is more of a temple track, which picks the speed back up. Yeah, you could tell that was definitely delivered in the track flow. City is almost taking the corner and creating an anthem for the whole city. Let's take one aspect of Chicago and talk about the corner. Now. Let's talk about the city. And in Common, once again, painting the narrative of why he and so many of the other artists represent Chicago each day. And every day, we talk about Los Angeles, we talk about New York. People talk nowadays about Atlanta, about Houston. But Chicago is a major hub of music, of food, of art culture. And so I love how he put this sort of shy city anthem on here for the whole city to really get behind, for him to pay homage. It's just kind of a lament against the lack of substance in the current hip hop game and telling people that, look to Chicago, he's got that line in there where's hip hop going? It's Chicago. That's a great line.


Participant #1:

And at the time, it really was. At the time, like I said, you had Kanye West, who was just he was the new hot guy in not only just rapid hip hop, but just in the music industry. And so we see Kanye West now, and it's like, he's huge, he's big, but this is where it started. And so Kanye West being from Chicago, and then you had other acts that were following behind them. You had Lupe Fiasco, who was supposed to be the next big Chicago artist, who JayZ was looking to sign, who everybody was throwing in money to sign Lupe Fiasco out of Chicago. Chicago was really looking like the next big place for hip hop. It was going to be hip hop in some ways, new Atlanta, the new city. And so, yeah, this was a rep your city type of track in which it was speaking to where the soul of hip hop was at the current time. The soul of the backpack movement, the soul of the voice of the everyday people. He was saying it's found here in Chicago. And so it's a wonderful track to pay tribute to the city that he loves. If we have time at the end, I'll tell you my beef with Kanye, and it goes back to Bonner 2008. Let me know. I have beef with Kanye too. Track nine, next one up. No, I'm sorry. Track eight is The Food, the live one from Chappelle Show. So I was hoping we get this track. So I told you all before that Common had a song called Get Them High on Kanye West's College Dropout album that came out, I think, in 2003. And so there was a gap in between 2003 and 2004, which we didn't hear much from coming during this time. Of course, this is when I'm in college, the Dave Chappelle Shows Chappelle Show was like, that was huge. Once again, this goes back. There were so many different factors in that made this album great ingenious, not only production, not only commons voice, not only the lack of critical success with his previous album, but this sort of Dave Chappelle phenomenon feeding into this album. And so he appeared on the Chappelle Show in, I believe it was like October of 2004, and he premiered this song called The Food. And I remember watching it thinking like, oh my gosh, this song is absolutely great. Now, if you go back and watch the video, the video is a little weird on Chappelle Show, because if I remember correctly, there were like puppets, there were muppets or puppets. They were in the kitchen. Kanye was sort of cooking. It was weird. I do remember because this is the only song from the album that I knew going in and I knew it because of Chappelle show. Yeah, it was the only reason I knew, looking back, what was happening. Could you leave the puppets alone? But I believe they were in there. Maybe I could have a foggy memory. But what I do remember is once again just hearing Common and hearing his voice and seeing the confidence and seeing the style and going back almost to Common, to his roots of the Bboy that he's always professed himself to be. And it was on full display on this track in front of a live studio audience and I remember just watching it and I was just like amazed by the song. But then they hear the audience's reaction after they stopped. You hear it in the track with the live track in which the audience just erupted with the pause and it was almost like common is officially back. He's officially back.


Participant #1:

And I think that was like the first time that we saw because there was probably about a six more months to the actual lease of this album. But that was a huge anticipation of what could happen with this upcoming album. And so I'm glad they put the live version of The Food on the album as opposed to the studio recording of the Food because it just doesn't hit the same. I have both on my computer, it does not feel the same at all. So there is a studio version of it. There is a studio version and you need that live audience. And I think he needed that vibe. Almost goes with this whole sort of this is an album about course about him, but it's also for the people. He needed some of the energy from the people on this album. There is a studio recording version, check it out. But I guarantee you the live version minus the puppets, the live version is incredible and I believe it's a Sam Cook sample that The Food is based on. And that song, if I remember correctly, going back to my 2005 memory, kanye did not make this song for Common. I believe he made this song for Mariah Carey. Okay, just a little nugget out there. Interesting. I can't believe I read that back when I was reading like I said during the days, I'm a hiphop nerd and so when I was reading articles in Music Vagazine, the Source magazine, Double Excel magazine, getting all this sort of knowledge, I believe I read that it's for Mariah Carey. But this is incredible song which that leads into track nine real people. Real people bleeds into track eight. You take the real people from the audience and the energy from the audience and then you talk about the realness of who we are as human beings. And I think when I look at hip hop artists who does a great job, what artists does a fantastic job of speaking about the people. Thomas has to be top three about that because I think that's what makes him so he seems very real. Whereas many artists, just in any genre, it's a front, it's a stage persona. This guy could be the rockstar, this guy could be the thug. Nine times out of ten, probably it's a stage persona that common as the poet. Like I said, he's real and he is speaking for the people. There doesn't seem to be any phoniness in there whatsoever. No, he seems likable and it's one of those things where it's okay in hip hop and it's so damn. He may not be, but he seems likable. He crafts his song once again taking from songs like The Corner, like Shy City and talking about real people, the realness that we all face, not just to select celebrity, not just the hip hop star, but our ordinary Joe's, our everyday struggles that we face with people. The highs, the lows and the in between, the work, the pain, trying to reverse the slave mind and insert the brave mentality or that it's not at home can I do Break free and still be honored at home? I was told by Chief it's the game's nature when you're glowing summer love and summer hatcher it's real people. This, I think, is one of those almost slept on tracks. It's overlooked because you have another great song coming up and track ten and then parting on track eleven. But real people is a wonderful sort of glue aspect on this album. It definitely ties in the food to the next track, They Say, which I feel like Common was almost his declaration in saying his piece about not only who he is as an artist, but about his last album. Yeah, and I got that from the lyrics they Say is one of my other takeaway stand out tracks from this album along with the intro and testify. But you've got a definite feel of him kind of speaking to his haters that say he may have either sold out or gone away from his roots, but he's saying that he maintains his original values while still having a desire for success, but he's still going to make his music his way. They say my life is comparable to Christ the way I say the funny thing I listened to Electric Circus, the album again today with fresh ears and it's a good album. I mean, it's a good album. I wouldn't say it's a great album, but it's a good album. But it caught a lot of flak because in 2002, when hip hop was looking for consistency, when hip hop was looking for Let's Take It Back To


Participant #1:

The Electric Circuit album was almost like Afro hiphop funk, futuristic type that did not fit in 2002. And so I think that every artist and whether you are artist, if you're a musician, if you are an author, whatever your artistry is, you deserve to do an album that is strictly for you. And I think that Electric Circus album was an album that Common needed to do to bring himself here to the point of B. But I think that it was almost ahead of its time because also at that time you had Andre the Revolves in creating The Love Below. You had The Roots put out Phrenology, which was almost another genre bending album. I think that Common and I think he said it in the interviews. He did not like hiphop music, so he went different. He went from the hip hop artist or the hip hop musician, the rapper, to an artist with Electric Circus. And he maintained the artistry here on B, just in a more hip hop familiar way, I think they say was definitely a response to, as you said, the criticism that he was facing, that he had one line they say a brother lost his mind, but they were saying he went crazy. He was dating Erica Baidu and people were saying he changed up his whole style. He changed up everything about him because he's dating Erika Baidu. He's lost his step. He doesn't have it anymore. And so this is his response saying like, no, not only do I have it, I gained something from this past album. And that although people may not necessarily be selling this album, this almost brought me years, almost a natural step with any music, especially for longstanding artists that are able to put out 510 plus albums, there's going to be a musical evolution for that particular artist or band. And some of the best bands out there, they'll have what appear to be duds, but like you said, ahead of their time. Coming up, I've got Bruce Springsteen Nebraska, which was before Born in the USA. It's a folk album. It's literally just Bruce Springsteen guitar and harmonica and like some other random instruments, but it was very poorly received. Not poorly, but just kind of like what you mentioned. It's a good album, but it wasn't Thunder Road. And then he came out with Born in the USA like a year or two later and that exploded. But then you go back and listen to it now, that was ahead of its time. That's a wonderful album. But you go back through the Rolling Stones, you go back through the Beatles, Van Halen, Radiohead, perfect example. The album I did with Luke Radiohead in Rainbows, that was a transition point for them because they had, I believe it was eight albums before that, which they exploded in the then the fans kind of slowly disliked each album in succession and then In Rainbows came in and it was their b, I could say, because it was their chance, their record label. They broke off with EMI. It was the first kind of independent album that they could do without any interference. And it was just their music, their way. And I love musical evolutions of artists. I like to hear the beginning, the middle in the end, and just hear how many it's great when they try different things. Absolutely. When I look at artists, when I look at people in general. But for the sake of this conversation with simple musicians, sometimes you need a good Fu album, for lack of better words. It's one of those because it is a music industry and they are crafting hits based upon their consumers. And so sometimes you need an album. It's almost the same to the proverbial man, to almost the middle finger album. And I think that's what Commons Electric Circus was. It was to go from he had some songs. What was it? Star 69 Love. Jimmy was a rock star. Like, he had some weirder titles that to the average hip hop fan who's Jimmy? We talked about Jimi Hendrix, but


Participant #1:

who wants to talk about Jimi Hendrix? I think it's one of those albums that will age well. Almost like the example I have is Marvin Gaye Here My Dear. There you go. This is the album you're going to get. It may not be the album full of hits, it may not be the album that you want or that's going to sell, but this is what I'm giving you as an artist and Fu, it's that. And some of that is just to borrow from George Costanza's artistic integrity. It's that it's being able to do what you want to do and not let the major labels not let the mainstream push you and pull you into crafting something that your heart isn't in. And this was on Kanye's label, right? Yes. He changed from I believe he went from MCA and his label, MCA electric Circus is on MCA. And then MCA consolidated into Gaps. And so he signed with Kanye's Good Music. And I believe he put this album out on Geffen. I think that's what it's called, GE ffen. And so that's how this came about. But toward the end of that deal with MCA, they stopped promoting that Electric Circus album. He released the song that had Pharrell Williams in it called Come Close and Mary J. Blaze. It's a beautiful song, but it was hard for people to wrap their minds around because I believe he had on green pants that were crocheted. They were yarn together. The visual was weird for the album, and he was wearing almost like 70s clothes. It was just a really different vibe than the baggy jeans and oversized T shirts in early 2000s. It's like, what is Common doing for the average hip hop fan? But I think he addressed it on They Say and coupled that with Kanye first. And, of course, John Legend on the hook. This is another one of those songs that provided a bit more tempo and I think he almost did that every other track it's a bit more tempo to almost close out the album on track eleven yeah, track eleven is Your World part one and two, one of my favorites this is another J dilla one the other J dilla this is the common put out an album I Believe in 2007 and I believe it was after Jay Diller died I believe so I have to check on that but this is another one of those songs that would bal on the background vocals with the falsetto the perfect sort of pitch slow down the album he almost started this song much like the intro as a point of reflection and it's the perfect book in to close the album including featuring once again featuring his father on I believe on every album leading up to this point his father is featured on the last track pop's lens generates have never understood working for the man and being broke I ain't a fan now I stand in the same spot as my old man my life I plan not to be on this corner I still want to see California but this is my world he once again combines the soul with the poetry with hip hop and just create this beautiful J dilla track that was definitely one of the standouts on the album absolutely yes this was an excellent closure to both the album and the message he's trying to get across as far as do you have the potential no matter where you come from as long as you stay true to yourself yeah and once again just his ability to storytell, his ability to if you close your eyes and listen to this album to certain tracks you want to place yourself right into the subject's shoes right into their environment and so now this is a beautiful eight minutes I believe it's like eight minutes and like 32nd long track issue world part one and two and he crafted the intro and the outro this being I guess the outro beautiful if I were going to write if I were going to A and R and album this is the format that I would choose eleven tracks and be just as strong in the first track in your intro as you are on your last track this isn't the album filled with fillers there's no filler there's not an empty song on here yeah, no filler at all. There's no room for fillers on this album you have almost a book, a narrative, a personal narrative taking you from chapter one to chapter eleven in just under 43 minutes and it leaves you wanting more. I think that's the genius of these almost these shorter albums this one left you wanting more where if you have eleven tracks that you don't like it leaves a bad taste in your mouth this one left such a taste where it's like I'm anticipating the next album two years later. I spent the next two years like, okay, when are we coming out with another album? That's how great of a taste this album left just within me. And it really just imprinted the words, the lyrics, the production. This takes me back to 2005 when I had a whole bunch of hair and I didn't have any bills. I was in college and the sun was shining like, this is just a absolutely beautiful album. So the major top spot, what albums made your shortlist? Okay, if I'm going my shortlist, I have to go back to that almost same era of my life. There's an album called Below the Heavens produced by its Blue and Exile Is. They're both from California and it is almost an album of my early from 19 to 21. Okay. Blue at the time, I believe Blue when he released the albums like 19 or 20, like every song that he released that was on the album, I felt because I was in the same age bracket. And so I would definitely put Glue and Exile Below the Heavens in my top list. Jay Z's Blueprint album, produced by Kanye West and Just Blaze, that 2001 album, I still say it's JD's best collective work in which Kanye West his sound and Just Blaze, another producer who sort of mimics some of the soul sampling of Kanye West and other producers, j dill at the time, both of those young producers at the time reinvented JayZ almost into the Jay Z hip hop, greatest of all time artists that we see today. He was good before, but with that album, he was great in a show that he can make songs for the streets and for the radio. And so I will put that in my top list and oh, my goodness, another album. Even though it's an instrumental album, I'm going to put Jdyla's. Donuts. Okay. Because as someone who understands the power of music but also understands loss and loss of life and just understanding the story of a man making an album on his deathbed and hearing it, it's emotional. It's an emotional album. I will put that up there, too. Yeah, I definitely have to check that one out. I'm very curious about that one. Listen to it and then also check out some Jay Dilla. There's a stone throw documentary on YouTube, I believe it's on YouTube that explains a bit more about the story. But when he was in a wheelchair, he was in a hospital bed, his mom will bring in his MPC and he could barely move or do anything. And he's losing weight and making beats.


Participant #1:

Yeah, definitely check that one out. Yeah, I will. I'm very curious about that one. Well, before we wrap this up, tell our listeners what you're working on, where they can find you and anything you would like to pitch. No, I'm an educator, as you mentioned before. And so my passion is to go and create curriculums that bring life and joy to young people in the classroom. And so currently I'm developing curriculums involving local libraries and library systems. But also, just how do you create culture? Culture waiting in the classroom. So if any of the listeners are looking for someone to help create a culture of positivity, a culture of expectation, and a culture of really just vision and creativity, reach out to me because this is what I do as an educator, as someone who believes in serving in the community. You can also check me out on Spotify with my podcast and Semi Social Life of a Black Introvert. Because contrary to as many words as I've talked today, I'm really a pretty quiet person. So the Semi Social Life Black Intro podcast is my sort of viewpoint on life. It's my counseling and therapy session that I dropped and released every week. Other than that, I'm writing some books. I'm a songwriter myself. Hopefully in this year, my goal is to release a hip hop album. Great. You may hear that, I guess the last thing, I also have kids, and so I created this hip hop sort of chill, relaxed, bedtime album that I made for my kids way back, I made four years ago. And they are just now hearing it. And so they are ten and nine. And so I may also release that. But yeah, just check me out. That's pretty cool on the Internet. Iamufalli.com. That is iammufali.com immufali. I'm trying to do a couple of different things. We'll put links to all your stuff in the show notes for this guy. Cool. So, 2008, Bonn Room. Kanye west is doing his Glow in the Dark tour, right? I'm 28 and I'm there with my 18 year old brother. And just the two of us are Bonnieu, and it's our very first Bonne route. And he was scheduled to go on at 200 in the morning. Right. Pearl Jam played long, so Pearl Jam played like an extra hour, so the stage wasn't ready for him. So they actually moved him to the second stage, which pissed him off. And then he refused to play in the second stage, so they moved him back to the main stage now that Pearl Jam was done. So keep an eye on the updates and stuff. But we wanted to hear Kanye. So we're there at 230 in the morning, 03:00 in the morning, 330 in the morning. People are pissed off by this point. They're throwing ChemLights onto the stage and there's loud chance of f Kanye. People are just getting really angry because this is at the end of a festival day. People are tired. It was rough. He finally starts at about 430 in the morning. Wow. This was the Glow in the Dark tour, so it was all about the lights and his light show. And within 20 minutes, the sun starts coming up. Wow. Okay. There was so much the next day. Bonnew encourages people to do their art on the walls and stuff. There's a lot of murals, a lot of freelance artists that are just painting. And so we went crash for a couple of hours, came back, and within like 3 hours, because that's all we really slept. There was all kinds of messages for Kanye because people were just I think he only did half his set, he left. But there was f Kanye, there was Kanye's a gay fish, there was all kinds of anti. Hilarious in hindsight, but man had a beef with him ever since. I waited all night, and that was just ego. He's another one. I released a podcast episode on Kanye, and to watch Kanye West now from where he was back then is almost you can't recognize the person. I wonder right around that 2007 time, when did his mom died? I think it's like 20 07 20 08 20 09 I think he lost his mind. We're continuing to see that version of Kanye West who before it was about the artistry. I know money changes people, and maybe I don't have enough money for it to change me. I guess that's like the hip hop quote that I've heard so much. Well, you can only have so many people tell you that you are a genius. You're the next coming of Michael Jackson and Prince combined of musical genius so many times before. It can mess with your head a bit. I was talking to my wife. I think he is a genius genius. Now, I don't think he's a social genius, and I think sometimes that people allow he and his stardom and his economic influence, his money, I think people allow him to exhibit bad behavior. And it's just that we wouldn't expect that anybody else we wouldn't let anybody else do, or people don't hold him accountable. Yeah, I think you nailed something there, because if you don't have someone to tell you, dude, no, that's a bad idea. That's a bad idea. Yeah, plain and simple. And I think that's one of the things that as an educator, that's why I do what I do. I work on a large college campus, and I'm a mentor for a lot of the young men that they're 19 2021. And if you're a man that doesn't have connection, if you're a man that doesn't have accountability, if you're a man that has a whole bunch of people that are just yes men around you, that's dangerous. And I think Kanye West was terrible, is that he is 45 years old with a whole bunch of yes men. And that's very dangerous to be that old without accountability, no accountability. Everyone telling you you're a genius and you got a ton of money, a ton of money. It's a bad mixture. But then you also have some alleged substance abuse challenges, and you also have some mental health challenges, and everything is 90 on the freeway. Mentally, I like Kanye as an artist, but I always just my sort of way I look at it, I would say Kanye west the man, have peace. If Kanye West the artist never put out another album, but Kanye West the man had peace, I would be perfectly okay with that, because he seems like someone who could just crash and burn and what a burner would be, and everybody will rejoice around the fire. Yeah. And music history is littered with those crash and burn stories, and I hope that never happens to him. I don't know what his recent musical outlets have been. Yeah, I hope the man finds his happy place, more or less. We all need it. Lord knows we all need it. So, yeah, I'm with you. I hope he finds this happy place. Being married on a reality show is not a happy place, no matter when you're addicted to the fame or to the infamy. Yes, either one. When you get to the fame, to the infamy, and where anything he says is a headline, everything he does is a headline. Everyone he dates is a headline. Everything. I don't know. How do you go back to normalcy? I just hope he's not like prince Michael Jackson, amy Winehouse, jimi Hendrix, Kirk aubang, whether he's a little bit younger. But I hope he doesn't flame out in that same type of way with people like, well, we didn't see it coming. Like, you should have. You should have. Yeah. Prince is a great example there. I mean, a musical genius who had no one around him to tell him, no, you need it. Prince Michael Jackson, I empathize because they were addicts, and you're an addict without anyone to say. Instead of talking to Prince, talk to prince Michael Nelson Rogers, whatever his full name is, talk to him, the man, as opposed to the product. And that's when perhaps the ills of life and the ills of entertainment in which your humanity almost has to be sacrificed for your artistry. And I love music. I'm a hiphop nerd, but I love humanity more than I love music for a lot of these artists and for people in general. Be creative, but it doesn't have to cost you. You kanye needs to go on your podcast and talk it out. He wouldn't like me. I'm not a yes man. We may last two minutes, and he probably wouldn't show up on time. He wouldn't like me. I know I wouldn't be his cup of tea. He has to go somewhere else where everyone is smitten with his genius.


Participant #1:

Well, Aaron, I'd like to thank you for your time today. It was a pleasure to sit and talk with you about b by common. Thank you. I look forward to checking this out and hopefully being on another episode. We can talk movies, we could talk music, we can talk whatever. It's definitely been an absolute joy spending time with you today. Thank you so much. Thank you for listening the music rewind. A podcast from the Sidereal Media Group. As I always say, listen to the full album. Until next time.


Participant #1:

A podcast from the Sidereal Media Group. Back to you. Anchors.




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