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Much, much better than the filler I expected – a great companion to a great album and it is definitely worth seeing for Common Sense fans

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
6 July 2005

With the release of his new album "Be", this documentary captures Common and his crew as they roll out the album. Starting out with a look at his new look (gone are the sweaters and crochet trousers) the film follows Common as he selects the picture that will eventually make it to be the cover of Be. Following this we have a rather candid interview where he discusses aspects of his recent work, intercut with other footage behind the scenes of video shoots and radio interviews. Along with this we have live performances of The Corner and a news spot about his work on HIV testing promotion.

When Common's album came out I had had it on pre-order for quite a while and thus missed out buying the version with this documentary included as a DVD. However once I heard Be I realised that I couldn't keep it to myself and wanted to share it with a couple of people I know who wouldn't buy it – so I gave my copy away to someone else and replaced it with the CD/DVD version. I hadn't got high hopes for this film; when the main menu came up it looked like it would be a collection of interviews and footage just picked up off the floor and put together without a great deal of love to make a filler for a cd. You know what I mean – many DVD extra "documentaries" are like this, just filler without value. With this, the first segment being an interview with his stylist certainly made me fear this was how it was going to go down.

However this segment actually turns out to be funny and interesting and, as such it marks out the direction of what turned out to be an interesting and engaging 40 minutes worth of material. The interview section makes up the guts of the film and it put me off a bit that it kept fading in and out, but this was more than compensated for by what they talked about. Far from being mushy, easy filler Sway really puts it on the line and goes to uncomfortable places – the poor selling of "Water for Chocolate", the influence of Erika Badu, the critical mauling of "Electric Circus", the "fashion" decisions he made, all these get covered and not all of them are that easy subjects. I found this interesting and welcomed the chance to hear Common talk. I must admit though that I didn't like the way he half agreed with critics on Electric Circus and was a bit apologetic – like he said, I felt it was "out there" but I respected that as part of this wide creative circle that is Common. I think he did well enough to defend it as part of himself though and, although he mocked his fashion choices at least he said this is who I am – not everyone stays the same with time and I think other artists could learn from his by pushing the limits of what is acceptable in the MTV presentation of hip hop. The bit about his HIV work could have been better but the footage of him visiting a school was good and the Corner performance was OK despite just being one static camera – more songs performed live would have been nice but I guess they didn't want to rule out the option of a "Common: Live" DVD later on down the road…."everybody gotta eat, right?" Overall this is a solid documentary that will appeal to all Common fans. It is not perfect but it is miles better than the filler that you usually get with this sort of thing and I was glad I bought it. Of course the fact that you can get this film with the album Be just makes it all the more attractive because it is a great album despite being as much a Kanye West product as it is a Common Sense one. On that note, one thing I would have liked Sway to ask when he was asking about Badu's influence would have been whether Common felt that he has perhaps allowed it to happen again with West appearing to push Be a certain way – just because it works doesn't mean it shouldn't be highlighted as a thing; but then I guess, although not filler, it doesn't want to probe too deep!

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