Where would Common be without Be, his '05 disc? Or perhaps a better question is: Where would the Chi-town poet of body and soul and, yes, streets, be without his fellow Chicagoan Kanye West, who produced all but two of the album's 11 tracks? West turned Common's often esoteric sound which, for mainstream hip-hop audiences charred by gutter punks such as Chingy, must've felt like catching steam in a fishnet into a palatable melange of tasty grooves and driving beats. Best part is, West's production didn't take away Commons essential humanity and commitment to truth. Be's accessibility made the quality of its ambition that much stronger. Same goes for N.E.R.D.'s best disc so far, '04's Fly or Die, which combined some lovely laments with Sly and the Family Stone inventiveness. Producers The Neptunes have never sounded so good.
Thu., Sept. 18, 8 p.m., 2008