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Perhaps someday Stereolab and P.O.D. will sound at home on the same hip-hop album, but I suspect the voice you'll hear rapping over them will not belong to Common. Some artists are born to blaze trails, and others are born to regroup after adventurous miscues like Electric Circus. Since that 2002 album, Kanye West has redefined the role of the socially conscious, morally conflicted rapper that Common all but patented in the 90s, and on the new Be (Geffen) West's production creates a needed context for Common's ultimately trad sensibility: the neosoul mood, born of airy electric pianos and the inevitable chipmunked vocal samples, gives the Chicago-bred MC a bridge to the past grounded not in nostalgia but in a sense of history. His raps at their most plainspoken, Common returns here to a central theme of his--how social pressures make love difficult to achieve for a black man and woman--and he handles the matter so thoughtfully on "Faithful" and "Love Is..." that I'll forgive him the offensively duplicitous femme fatale of the courtroom melodrama "Testify." Maybe his metaphors are hit ("Shorties get the game but no instructions to assembling") or miss ("I'm back like a chiropract"), but the slice-of-life tableau "The Corner" doesn't just redeem the tired gangsta apologia "We write songs about wrong 'cause it's hard to see right," it actually manages to see all that's right about the hood. Dirty opens both of tonight's shows; the all-ages early set is sold out, but tickets are still available for the 18+ late show. See also Thursday. Wed 6/1, 7 PM and 12:30 AM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $33.50-$35.

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