Time is a gift, and children can change the world on “Be (Intro).” “It’s Your World (Parts 1 & 2)” mentions God’s love as it urges “blacks that lack self-esteem” to rise above their circumstances. With affection for the afflicted, “The Corner,” “Love Is” and “The Food” describe challenges of life in the ’hood. “Real People” notes, “When we lessen our women our condition seems to worsen.”
F-words, s-words and offensive racial slang are peppered throughout. Common doesn’t glamorize drugs and alcohol in his lyrics, but he mentions booze, dope, marijuana and cocaine often amid tales of urban woe. Likewise, thug figures and gang violence simply come with the territory. Less incidental are the rapper’s spiritual confusion (“Chi City,” “Be (Intro),” “They Say…”) and hormonal conquests laid out in graphic detail (“Go!,” “Chi City” and “Real People,” which alludes to nocturnal fantasies). A man thinks himself “Faithful” because an affair with a co-worker only involved oral sex. A lying murderess lets her man go to prison while she walks away scot-free (“Testify”). Despite his call to respect ladies on “Real People,” the artist refers to women as “b–ches” on several tracks.
Upon seeing Be’s parental advisory label, it’s tempting to lump Common (born Lonnie Rashied Lynn) into the typical rap rabble. A more refined social conscience sets him apart, though not nearly far enough. Profanity and sexual immorality undermine any noble preaching.