Common is hip-hop's prodigal son. A succession of mid-Nineties classics -- 1994's Resurrection and 1997's One Day It'll All Make Sense -- established him as the king of true skool hip-hop. But on 2002's Electric Circus, the Chi-town rapper seemed to have lost his footing, adrift in a messy mixture of arty pretense and gooey hippie-hop. Enter Kanye West, keeper of the golden samples. From the swanky wah-wah guitar of "Chi City" to the cooing vocal samples sprinkled throughout, West delivers some of the most satisfying work of his career and provides a perfect backdrop for Common's crystalline imagery and mesmerizing wordplay. On "Food," a reinvigorated Common raps, "Shorties get the game but no instructions to assembling/Eyes bright, it seems like the fight is dimming them." This sense of fatalism is central to Be, and in trying to plot out salvation for the various hustlers and down-and-outers that inhabit the disc, Common has rescued his own career.

Common, John Legend, and De La Soul perform Sunday, August 8, at Mansion, 1235 Washington Ave, Miami Beach. Doors open at 10:00 p.m. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 305-531-5535.


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