On His Latest Album, Common's Political Commentary Gets Personal "I want my life to be fulfilled in a way where people will say, 'This dude inspired people. He was a good father. He just was a nice person,'" the rapper says. Black America Again is out today.
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On His Latest Album, Common's Political Commentary Gets Personal

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On His Latest Album, Common's Political Commentary Gets Personal

On His Latest Album, Common's Political Commentary Gets Personal

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Common has been making music for nearly 25 years. He's made a name for himself as one of hip-hop's most thoughtful artists, mixing politics with poetry, soul with philosophy. He won a Golden Globe and an Oscar for the song "Glory" in the movie "Selma." Now he's out with a new album. It's called "Black America Again."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLACK AMERICA AGAIN")

COMMON: (Singing) Here we go. Here - here we go again. Trayvon will never get to be an older man. Black children - their childhood stole from them. Robbed of our names and our language - stole again.

What I wanted to express was the humanity in black people. And I looked at this film "Straight Outta Compton." And the tape of Rodney King was playing in the film. And it made me think of Eric Garner. And it made me think of the other people who had died at the hands of police officers.

And though I know other things exist, you know, like beautiful things that have happened to us and beautiful things we've created, I just looked at that and felt the pain of it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLACK AMERICA AGAIN")

COMMON: (Singing) Hot damn, black America again. Think of Sandra Bland as I'm staring in the wind. The color of my skin - they're comparing it to sin. The darker it gets, the less fairer it has been.

These times, where we are seeing people being shot and killed with their hands up - we have no choice but to stand up because the racism that we thought didn't exist or thought was over because President Obama was in office - no, it's here. The healing that - we felt like, we're moving on from this. No. It's still some healing for us to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLACK AMERICA AGAIN")

STEVIE WONDER: (Singing) We are rewriting the black American story. We are rewriting the black American story.

COMMON: Stevie Wonder's singing, we are rewriting the black American story. I said, Stevie, would you be open to doing this song? And he asked what I was saying. And I was like, really, what I'm saying - this is a call to action, humanizing our story and showing the depth of who we are. That's the rewriting of the black American story.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOME")

COMMON: A man whose genius and freedoms and ability to communicate and to talk and to touch chords.

The song "Home" is really God telling me, what am I supposed to do? And that's why I start, I heard the sound of the trumpets, a voice from the throne - seen the 24 elders, and I knew I was home. I was told to write a song for the people. Take the original Hebrews on the exodus of black excellence.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOME")

COMMON: (Singing) Tell them to invest in us and make testaments about each other or how we're sisters and brothers. Cover the land and corners with poems of stone.

"Home" is a song that makes me think of - what do I want to accomplish before I leave this earth? You know, there was an article written in The New York Times about your work resume and your eulogy resume. And it's your eulogy resume.

If they only have to say, he received this award, and he sold this many records - if those are the things that people are mentioning, I don't think that's a life that got fully lived. I want my life to be fulfilled in a way where people will say, this dude inspired people. Man, he was a good father. And he just was a nice person.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE CHICAGO BOY")

COMMON: (Singing) How should I begin? This is the story of a boy named Lonnie Lynn. As I say it, the spirit's here with me. He was raised in the belly of the city, Chicago.

"Little Chicago Boy" is about my father. Pops we called him - Lonnie Pops Lynn. My father died in September of 2014. And the imperfections of my father and also the perfections of him all came out in that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE CHICAGO BOY")

COMMON: (Singing) Talks that we had - man, they was never idle. He talked about reading the Quran and the Bible. He talked how he smoked dope and sold it for survival.

That song is special to me because he always ends off all my albums. And, fortunately, I was able to have some recordings of him that were never released. And it really fits the song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE CHICAGO BOY")

LONNIE LYNN: You know, the other day, I got a little phone call - got a message. It said, Pops, you've been gone from home too long. So I sit my bags down and headed to 87th Street.

COMMON: On "Little Chicago Boy," I do believe I am rewriting my own story, you know, by not only taking my father's energy and legacy but taking it higher and doing greater things. I feel like I'll continue to write a new story for me and for all people as I continue to live and do the best I can do to do God's work.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE CHICAGO BOY")

LYNN: I'm out.

TASHA COBBS: (Singing) I got to be honest. It's so much different without you here.

MONTAGNE: That's the song "Little Chicago Boy" from Common's new album "Black America Again."

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