From the big screen to the TV screen, club floor to Grammy stage, the 39-year-old rapper, Common, embodies every bit of what it means to be a renaissance man. Coming off his first successful publication – a memoir entitled One Day It’ll All Make Sense – and the launch of his television acting career with AMC’s Hell on Wheels, the critically acclaimed artist recently stepped back into the studio to cook up his latest album, The Dreamer/The Believer, slated for a December 20 release. With plenty to discuss, Common sits down with online lifestyle magazine, Interview, to divulge what makes him so awesomely cool. Touching on topics like his friendship with the late J. Dilla, acting endeavors, and a track on his new album referencing the softer side of hip-hop, this brief interview is a must-read no matter what art you prefer from the talented Chicagoan. Check out the full article through Interview Magazine.
Did you act when you were growing up?
I acted when I was young—there was one play that I did. I felt I did well, but I remember my mother raving over my friend’s performance [instead]. I kinda lost my faith at that point in acting, and I had interest in other things. I loved plays, I loved films, but I had no desire to act until I had just put out my album Like Water for Chocolate. Creatively, I felt like I’d hit a ceiling, and I needed something else to express myself, and I just decided to take acting classes. The first opportunity that came up was with Girlfriends—someone that I work with was just talking about that, saying, “See how far you’ve come, from Girlfriends to Hell On Wheels. We’re very proud of you!”
But you’ve also done some acting in your videos.
Yeah. Technically, my first acting job was in one of my videos for a song called “Retrospect For Life,” which Lauryn Hill directed and featured an actress by the name of N’bushe Wright, who played my girlfriend who was about to be pregnant. I remember being so nervous about it, but now I feel like I can conquer the world with it. I got a long way to go—I want to keep growing, but it’s something that I’m very into.
What made you decide that it was time for you to write a memoir? You’re quite young.
I felt like I had experienced a lot of things in the first chapter of my life, and I wanted it to inspire and motivate people, so I just started writing.
There’s a part in the book where you talk about living with J Dilla.
Yeah, we had an apartment together in LA. It was incredible to have J Dilla in your dining room making beats—it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had. I used to get really, really excited when I was getting a JD beats CD. But to have that access and see him create things live every day. There were times when he was sick and couldn’t work as much, but every time he was able to, he would work. He loved music.
What do you think made him so special?
God gifted him with that talent, and then he just loved it so much—he was born to be that creative. One thing that allowed him to continue to be special was that he wasn’t controlled by the industry. He didn’t care if it was the popular rapper calling him or the label telling him they wanted something, he really did stay focused on the music. He had a unique perspective—he was brought up in the hood in Detroit, but he was into jazz music, and sampling Bobby Caldwell and people like that. He had a wide variety of information and talent.