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Meaning of the song ‘Be’ by ‘Common’

Released: 2005

Indeed, if you want a hip-hop track brimming with deep self-reflection and raw desire for change, you can’t look past “Be (Intro)” by Common. Taking it verse by verse, you see a man grappling with his legacy, his roots, and his aspirations, melding spirituality, socio-political commentary, and self-realisation to paint a vivid lyrical portrait.

The opening verse conveys Common’s desire for spiritual liberation akin to legends like Malcolm X, John Coltrane, and Yusef Lateef. Common sees their legacy as a beacon of hope and strength, even in death. “For moms, new steps in her direction” signifies an intention for progress and forward movement, particularly in honor of his mother.

“Chicago nights stay, stay on the mind” is a homage to his hometown, acknowledging its influence on his craft. “Wave the signs of the times, many say the grind’s on the mind” explores the struggle of being caught between aspirations and reality, hinting at the challenges faced by Black communities across the United States.

“Bush pushing lies, killers immortalized” is a direct critique of then-president George W. Bush and the Iraq War. The line “We got arms but won’t reach for the skies” uses wordplay to express a sense of disillusionment, implying that while they have the means (arms/weapons), they lack the ambition or hope to strive for more (reach for the skies).

Common turns introspective in the lines “Waiting for the Lord to rise, I look into my daughter’s eyes / And realize that I’ma learn through her”. Here, he acknowledges his daughter as his source of inspiration and possibly, redemption.

“The chosen one from the land of the frozen sun / When drunk nights get remembered more than sober ones” alludes to Common’s hometown, Chicago, often referred to as “the land of the frozen sun” due to its frigid winters. The reference to “drunk nights” may symbolize a period of reckless living before finding a clearer path forward.

Finally, “Never looking back or too far in front of me / The present is a gift and I just wanna be”, is a contemplation on mindful living. Here, Common chooses to focus on the present, seeing it as a ‘gift’, and asserting his desire to just ‘be’. This line underscores the track’s theme of self-realisation and serves as a fitting conclusion to this introspective piece.

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