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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Common and two surprises

Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock almost steal the rapper's show at the House of Blues.

June 08, 2005|Soren Baker | Special to The Times

Despite a strong 80-minute performance Monday at the House of Blues, gifted rapper Common did not earn the evening's biggest applause. That went to actor-comedians Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock, who stunned the capacity crowd when they took the stage after Common had delivered an energetic rendition of "The Light," the touching love song from his impressive 2000 album, "Like Water for Chocolate."

Chappelle, the star of Comedy Central's "Chappelle's Show," made another of his surprise local appearances since resurfacing last week following his MIA stint. He thanked the enthusiastic crowd for making a commercial success of Common's acclaimed sixth album, "Be," the bestselling rap album in the country last week.

As Rock looked on with a winning smile, Chappelle brought Common back out to perform what he called "my favorite song on the new album," "The Food," a life-in-the-streets selection that Common performed recently with Kanye West on "Chappelle's Show."

Common capped his 15-minute encore with a powerful speech about unity and the importance of believing in yourself, an extension of sorts to "It's Your World," the final song on "Be."

The Chicago rapper took the stage sporting a leather golf cap and a tight brown sweater. As the opening bass notes to "Be (Intro)" played, Common greeted the audience with an energy and focus that matched his strongest recordings. Accompanied by a DJ, a percussionist and a keyboard player, Common revisited many of the highlights from his 13-year recording career, including his classic 1994 meditation on the state of hip-hop, "I Used to Love H.E.R."

About an hour into his set, which he dubbed "The Basement Experience," Common also performed portions of seminal rap recordings from Run-DMC and the Pharcyde before bringing out celebrated female rapper MC Lyte, who performed the first verse from "Paper Thin," her forceful look at walking away from a no-good boyfriend. By bridging the gap between rap's past and its present, Common emerged as a hip-hop maestro.

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