When LL Cool J called himself the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) in 2000, he had the catalog and legacy to back it up. It’s hard to argue against a man who created Hip-Hop’s first love song with “I Need Love,” creating the template for the “for the ladies” song that is almost mandatory for every Hip-Hop album ever since.

Beyond that, it’s even harder to argue against a man who at one point was counted out and called washed up, only to make one of the biggest comebacks ever with “Mama Said Knock You Out.”

After releasing his Electric Circus album in 2002, Common found himself in a similar situation. The schizophrenic album was universally panned by critics and it took him three years to recover and comeback. That comeback album wound up being the best album of his career.

Common Be

When Be dropped in 2005 Common was 33-years old attempting to make a comeback in a genre that has long been considered to be a “young man’s sport.” Crunk music was at it’s height, Southern Hip-Hop was running sh*t, and even Gangsta rap was still striving on the backs of G-Unit. There wasn’t supposed to be any space for a non-controversial 30-something year old rapper coming off his worst album. But, backed by production from a talented but not-yet-“Famous” Kanye West and J Dilla, Common delivered the grown man rap album that Hip-Hop fans didn’t know they needed yet. He could have went the route that most artists making a comeback go by linking with the “hottest” producers at the moment and riding whatever trend had the most momentum. Instead he rapped from the perspective of the person that he was at that very moment. He didn’t try to recreate “I Used To Love H.E.R.” and he didn’t try to make a Crunk song either. He did just what the album title suggested and tried is best to just “be.” Oh yeah, it was rumored that Be stood for “Before Erykah” hinting that dating Erykah Badu is what led to him creating the catastrophe that was Electric Circus. He denied that accusation, even though it would make complete sense if it was true.

LL’s comeback album Mama Said Knock You Out was followed by 13 more years of hit singles and Gold and Platinum selling albums, virtually cementing his spot as an all-time great. Common’s Be was followed by a solid 11-year run that brought him one Gold album and three #1 Billboard rap albums. This doesn’t sound like “Top” statistics to you?

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