• 31May

    Common Talks Just Wright, The Believer, And Hip Hop's Evolution

    Common’s covered much ground during the past eighteen years.

    Since tossing his lyrical Kangol into the Hip Hop arena in 1992, the Chicago Emcee has released eight critically acclaimed albums, won two Grammy Awards, sold over two million records, undergone a seamless name change and racked up enough props from peers and fans alike to garner mention as one of the all time greats. Considering the quality of his rap resume, Common The Lyricist has nothing left to prove.

    That does not mean that additional artistic challenges do not exist for the Emcee born Ronnie Rashied Lynn, Jr. Since 2002, Common has slowly compiled numerous acting credits to his name, guest appearing in sitcoms “Girlfriends”, “One On One” and “Scrubs” and filling supporting roles in feature films Smokin’ Aces, American Gangster, Wanted, Terminator Salvation and Date Night.

    “I felt like there was something out there creatively that I wanted to do” Common stated during a recent media blitz promoting his latest film, Just Wright.

    “It was right [after] Like Water For Chocolate — I kept finding new things about music that I love — but there was something inside of me [saying] ‘Man, I want to do something else creatively.’ I feel like there is something out there that I really want to do but I didn’t know what that was. And acting was that. It was just an instinct I had in me because I tried to mess with the piano. I tried other things but it wasn’t clicking for me. I felt like I hit a ceiling with music to a certain extent. Even though I ended up doing the album Electric Circus just to break [through] that ceiling that I felt I had reached, but that’s what really inspired me to get into acting.”

    While Common has clocked supporting roles in big budget films playing a hit man, an assassin, a militia lieutenant, a crooked police detective and a drug dealer — ironically his starring role as a debonaire NBA All-Star (Scott McKnight) who unexpectedly falls in love with the physical trainer (Leslie Wright, played by Queen Latifah) assigned to help rehabilitate a career ending injury was the most difficult character to assume.

    “It was harder for me to get into character this time because the character was closer to me. This was the closest I’d ever been to one of my characters so I had to really almost go in a circle to get back to the way the character was. I’m so used to taking on a character that is not me. This character, “Scott McKnight”, had a lot of qualities that I have as a person. So it became one of those things where you ain’t gotta try hard but you ended up trying hard and then you get back to understand that your essence is what’s really needed.”

    Just Wright producer and lead actress, Queen Latifah, was an ideal resource for the rapper turned actor. Considering her successful transition from behind the mic to the big screen is similar to what Common is working to achieve artistically, sharing the marquee with The Queen provided a tremendous learning experience. “Latifah’s cool. She’s just a good person” stated Common.

    “She [told] me, business wise, just to be smart and take advantage of opportunities. Go for the things that seem far fetched or just beyond your reach. I really absorbed some of the business things because she produced Just Wright. She really [gave] insight on making moves to make the next thing happen. As far as acting goes, she told me to stay on it and keep working and trying different things. More than anything, she had my back. She was there supporting me and, at the same token, pushing me.”

    Common also spoke on his next album, The Believer, largely produced by his long time collaborator, No I.D., as well as the changes The Culture has undergone since his 1992 debut.

    “I’m doing a soulful, boom-bap Hip Hop [album]. It’s definitely street. Hip Hop is usually street. What I mean is, coming with that pure spirit of Hip Hop and that soulful stuff that No I.D. creates, that Kanye West creates, that I love to create…And when I say “return”, its just a return because of the fact that I’m reconnecting with the guys that first produced my music. But we still want to offer something new. We don’t want to try to live like it’s the 90s. We just want to carry that spirit of Hip Hop being pure like that. Raw elements.”

    “I look at Hip Hop like a living organism, like a person. If we look at how we were fifteen years ago, we were different people. I can look at myself three years ago and say I was a different person. Hip Hop is constantly changing. It had a little innocence when it began. When I started in the early 90s, mid 90s — there was still a certain innocence. Street music was the truth. It was like; Nas is dropping the truth, Mobb Deep is dropping the truth, NWA is dropping the truth and it was very creative. Everybody had their own character or story to offer. At certain points it has it’s ups and downs. I still think there is some quality Hip Hop out there. You gotta seek it more.”

    Just Wright, starring Queen Latifah, Common and Paula Patton is in theaters now.

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