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Common Allhiphop.com Interview


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Common: My Mind Spray

Published Monday, December 08, 2008 8:00 AM

By Alvin 'aqua' Blanco

“Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense, [but I did five mill']—I ain't been rhymin’ like Common since,” quipped Jay-Z on his song “Moment of Clarity.” The point is clear; rhyming for the sake of the art doesn’t really pay. But then again Chicago rhyme slinger Common isn’t doing so bad.

Surely you’ve seen Lonnie Rashid Lynn hawking Zunes and Lincoln Navigators, getting his acting on in flicks like Wanted and American Gangster, and on tour performing selections from his eight albums. On December 9th he drops his latest LP set of MP3s, Universal Mind Control, proving that having the skills can pay the bills.

Common has long embraced his spot as the conscious MC not to be tested on the mic (ask Ice Cube). Right now the former Common Sense speaks on how all his corporate sponsorships and acting gigs mean better music, what he learned making music with the likes of J Dilla and Kanye West, and that pending album with Q-Tip. Seems like Common is seeing things clearly.

AllHipHop.com: You had people ready for Invincible Summer. Obviously now it’s Universal Mind Control, what happened?

Common: We was close to finishing, I really was planning on bringing out the album, in July, and actually the 1st day was June 24th I had in my mind. It became a album [Ed. Note: Invincible Summer was originally announced as an EP.] We was almost done and then I got the movie The Terminator. So I was like, “Man I got to do this,” so during that process while I was doing it I couldn’t work at the same pace that I was working at. I had to push it back.

AllHipHop.com: Did the title change reflect a change in the music as well?

Common: Oh yeah, well the title change happened because first of all a lot of people, like my mother, would say, “Why you gonna still call your album invincible summer?” I was still kinda like look, I like the title, I’m calling it Invincible Summer. But at one point a friend of mine, ‘cause she heard the album, she like was like, “Man, Universal Mind Control, that’s what the album feel like. That would be a good title”. I felt that was more fitting for the album, the sound of the album. I’ma come with Invincible Summer at some point.

AllHipHop.com: You had also mentioned that your doing the movies allows you to do music without caring about the business aspect. Can you elaborate on that?

Common: First of all I’m an artist, so music is the way I express myself. Man I love music, so when I get a chance to do it I’m feeling grateful. I’m looking for the challenge and, for some reason, when I started taking on acting I felt challenged, a challenge in me as an artist too. It was a new challenge, and I just kept working on it and working on it and then I finally started getting opportunities to do some movies.

In the interim I would be working on music, and it felt like a weight was taken off my back as far as the responsibility of, “Man you got to sell this amount of records,” you know or your music has to be so big ‘cause that’s what’s sustaining your income, your life. As far as financial things go I felt like that weight was taken off a little bit. Not that I came in and just started getting super, super money on the movie side.

Like I said, it did take some of the responsibility off of music as the only source of income. And now, with me doing more movies it’s given me a chance to go out, touring ‘cause I want to. So that’s a joy for me 'cause I love music so I want to do it, for the love of it. That’s the reason I first got into it of course.

We young men so we all think about making a living. You know we all want to get, get money too. But I got into Hip-Hop just because I loved it. When I first started writing, money wasn’t even on my mind. So if I can kind of create that same environment for me as a musician where it ain’t even no way or shape about money, that’s gon’ make the music that much better for me. It’s going to allow me to have more fun.

The biggest thing/purpose for me making music at a lot of points is just to affect people's lives. I’ve seen the presence that it could have and that’s my biggest focus, even still. I wanted to affect peoples lives in a way that they just gon’ be having a good time enjoying themselves. Sometimes it’s like, “Damn I got to make sure I get’s paid”, you know? As an artist you try to separate that s**t from your mind when you working. You try to just do the art and then once the arts [is] created, you go out there and you go market that stuff. I want my music to reach even more people now. But it’s just like I’m having more fun doing it that’s all just what really it just boil down to. It’s good to be like, I’m working on this audition, but when I’m riding on the way to go do something I’m in the car writing a song. Here let me read this script, let me go work on something, it keeps me flowing.

AllHipHop.com: Because of the type of artist you are it’s almost like a lot of your fans want Common to be broke. Then you got all these sponsorships and the acting so cats start whispering things, Common’s kind of selling out. What do you say when people say stuff like that?

Common: I mean being at the point that I’m a man, I got things that I want to do in my life, people to take care of and a family to support, and investments to make. So I want to keep building and building, and making things flourish so that I could provide for my family and my community and all those around me. So, my thing is I’m very focused and know that I’m cool with making money and not putting money first. I still want to live well. The point is I don’t mind if a corporation comes to me and wants to do a deal if it’s something that fits with me and won’t take away from me artistically. Then I mean I’m grateful.

Not only is it an opportunity to make money directly but it’s also expanding audiences for me. If you don’t change for money or you don’t change for doing some type of partnership for the business or whatever, then shoot you should take it as a blessing. Then you doing the right thing, that’s what you should be doing. Otherwise, it’s difficult for a artist if they not able to make a living [from just music] if they not able to keep creating you know what I mean? It’s tough for them to make a living and really be able to stay creative ‘cause then they got to try and find another job. It always used to scare me like, “Man I don’t want to work no day job.” [laughs]

So I’m bout to make the best music ever. And I’m a believer that if you make the music as good as possible and just make good quality music, then it’s gon' come to light and people will get to it. Sometimes it may take a continuous evolution of that, but it will come to light. I’m a believer in that like, that, at some point, you just keep putting quality and growing with what you do, as an artist and people gon’ recognize it and expand your audience. And really what I’m doing with the films, the commercials and different things like that, is just expanding my audience and letting people know more who Common is.

AllHipHop.com: Over your career you’ve worked with production giants, Dilla, Kanye, the Neptunes; what have you gained from working with some of them?

Common: Working with Dilla I just learned that…that’s somebody that I felt was like all he knew was about making good music. I mean of course he wanted to make money but his love was with the music man. His mom told me he was walking around when he was three years old with 45’s on his wrist. His dad would walk him to the park, he would have 45’s on his wrist. I felt that coming through him.

With Kanye I feel like I learned about song making. He really knows how to make songs and he’s just so passionate and I also learned about being able to present your stuff with confidence and say man, “This is what it is,” and not being like, “Ok, am I offending anybody?”' Cause I know in my heart where my heart is, and I know I don’t want to offend nobody. I recognize that in Kanye. I mean even if people did get offended his heart is in the right place. I kind of learned from him, as far as making songs, it got to have good choruses. You got to bring in these certain type of melodies. He was really the person that was like, “Ok, we gonna do some raw Hip-Hop, that’s gon’ still reach the masses.” We’re gon’ make sure it reach the masses. That’s what his approach was.

Working with the Neptunes is like…first of all we’re not working with samples so that was something different in some ways. But I did that too with J-Dilla and ?uestlove, but the point is that the Neptunes had a whole different approach in production. Pharrell might start the beat and then Chad will come add on. Pharrell is definitely one who will, tell you, “Man we should do the hook like this,” and then come with an idea for the hook. He is one of the greatest producers I have ever worked with or the Neptunes together, some of the greatest producers.

Between them and Kanye they will make sure that song is done til the end. They ain't just gon' let you rap a certain way. Kanye, 'cause he and I had known each other for a while and he was definitely like, “Nah, re-write the rap.” Pharrell will be like, man I think we could make this better. He will say like you can do better. It’s different approaches but both of them get to the finish line.

No ID. Man, he is just one of the greats that people really don’t know but he has done some incredible stuff. Working with him; we were both new, this was our first time even making records. We were making demo’s together, it was just about making music man. He would make cold beats and I would just write the raps. And he would give me his opinion and say, “Man I think you could change this.” But most of the time I was stubborn at that time. Man, but overall that was just the raw creation right there. We didn’t know much about making the great hook or whatever. I would luck up, any hooks that we had that was good I would luck up, I was just focused on the raps more than the hooks.

AllHipHop.com: Now what’s up with this super group you and Q-Tip are supposed to be putting together?

Common: Yeah, we still gon' make it happen. It’s called The Standard and Tip got his album and once my album come out and we get to getting that material out there… We just talked and said man we got to start doing it. We had the idea and then we both started doing our thing. I believe it’ll be happening soon, like at some point in the next year I believe we’ll have some songs ready to put out. I’m just looking forward to working with somebody of that talent. I listen to Tribe I listen to Tip now and it’s like that’s a timeless dude. They made some music that’s forever and he making music that’s just incredible. I feel like what we doing is two jazz musicians getting together to make a album.

Edited by bigted
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Yo that was a dope interview...Common has aways seemed like a real, down to earth dude. One of my favorites no doubt. Glad to see that The Standard will still happen, EPIC.

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Common's new CD's dope, some feel good stuff right there, some clean fun like Big Willie Style, btw Turntable what interview was it where he said he didn't like the album?

Edited by bigted
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