Chicago rapper Common will return on May 24 with the album "Be," which, as tipped here last year, was produced by Kanye West. The 11-track set will be co-released via West's G.O.O.D. Music imprint and

Chicago rapper Common will return on May 24 with the album "Be," which, as tipped here last year, was produced by Kanye West. The 11-track set will be co-released via West's G.O.O.D. Music imprint and Geffen, to which Common remains signed. First single "The Corner" featuring Last Poets is No. 53 in its third week on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart.

Common previewed several cuts from "Be" for Billboard.com yesterday (March 24), describing the title's meaning as "simply to do without trying hard. I got to that point because on every album, I found myself trying to innovate a new music. This album, I felt like letting it be. If it sounds like something I've done before, so be it."

Highlights include next single "Go," which Common says is about "going back to your fantasy." The guest appearance by singer/songwriter John Mayer may raise eyebrows, but his sampled voice is put to intriguing use on the track.

"That was really a song that came in a divine way," Common says. "Kanye said, 'Let's go to the movies to see "Ray."' I met him and he and John Mayer were there. John had come to the studio, so I'd met him before, but I was surprised to see him. After the movie, we were inspired and just went and created this song."

Also included is "The Food," which West and Common first performed on "Chappelle's Show" and was the first track the pair created for the project. "Kanye called me to come by the studio but he was working on another artist's project," Common recalls. "He made this beat, but the artist wasn't there yet. So I took the beat and made a song out of it. He was like, 'Hurry up and leave before the artist comes!'"

"Be" scales back on guest appearances compared to Common's 2002 set "Electric Circus," which featured Mary J. Blige, Prince and Erykah Badu, among others. "I wanted it to be more about Common," he admits. "As artists we should be able to hold our own on albums. As long as I had the right production, I felt good about that."

"Electric Circus" sold more than 293,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which marked a significant drop-off from its predecessor, 2000's "Like Water for Chocolate." That set has shifted more than 748,000 units.

"That was the first time people didn't really respond to one of my albums," he says. "People were iffy. Going into this album, I got focused and got very hungry to make some raw hip-hop."

With "Be" nearing release, Common has begun plotting out his touring plans. He says he's in talks for a summer co-headlining tour with Nas, and is hopeful to be a part of a G.O.O.D. Music package in the fall with West and John Legend.