Be is the sixth studio album by American rapper Common, released May 24, 2005 on GOOD Music and Geffen Records. Primarily produced by hip hop artist Kanye West, the album peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 album chart and it is Common's second album to sell over 500,000 copies (over 800,000 copies sold). Be was also a critical success, receiving general praise and accolades from several critics and music publications. The album received a perfect "XXL" rating from hip hop publication XXL magazine.
Be was touted as Common's comeback album after the commercially disastrous Electric Circus. His previous album lacked promotion following MCA Records's absorption under Geffen. His new alliance with Kanye West helped to spark public interest in the project, as the album was produced by West and released by his own label GOOD Music. The results show that Common was clearly aware, and perhaps agreeing, with the negative criticisms about Electric Circus. In comparison to that album, Be is lean, immediate, and commanding, yet also restrained in its musical ambitions. Many believe it to be his safest album, although Brooklyn native rapper Israel The ILLa Real has stated that Be has influenced him in making his first album "I Fell In Love With H.E.R." Of the reaction to the album, the rapper said: "I don't think Electric Circus was as focused. Though I'd done some progressive hip-hop, people know me as the b-boy. When I showed them something different, a different style of b-boy, there were like, "Hold up. You can be Afrocentric, but what's this rock shit that you're doing?" Many of the beats created by West, and which Common rejected for the project, later appeared on West's studio album Late Registration.
In an interview with AllHipHop.com, Common denied that the album title stood for "Before Erykah." Common explained the concept and the album title in a 2005 interview for SixShot.com:
Common gave his reasons for featuring controversial spoken word recording artists, The Last Poets, on the album's first official single, "The Corner": "They gifted at writing. They voices is incredible. They took my song to a higher level. And that's what hip-hop was about to me. It would have a message. It would take you to the next place. It was fresh as people say -- something new. They brought newness to what "The Corner" was and they also brought some nostalgia, too. Just them being from the '70s and being used in hip-hop and their spirit brought something pure to it. They gave me a better understanding of the corner after that. I knew those who had been listening to hip-hop would know who the Last Poets were and if they didn't they would feel it in their souls sooner or later. And I also felt good about introducing some of the youth to the Last Poets."
"Go" was the album's second, and highest charting single. The song featured Kanye West and John Mayer, however all the verses are performed by Common. The video for the song included shots of Common surrounded by numerous models.