Common Explains Why Tennis Star, Basquiat Are in New Book
Even Common has his flaws. From afar, the conscious MC and lauded actor may have a picture-perfect life but his past experiences — a mix of both positive and negative — have attributed to the choices he’s made to travel the right path over the wrong one. Throughout his eight lyrical works, the 39-year-old Chicago native has touched on a wealth of personal triumphs and tribulations, but he takes the discourse a step further by elaborating on them in his new memoir, ‘One Day It’ll All Make Sense.’
In the 305-page read, Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., opens up about his relationship with his mother and his daughter, as well as highly publicized romances with the likes of songstress Erykah Badu, actress Taraji P. Henson and tennis star Serena Williams. Music enthusiasts will appreciate his stories behind the making of albums like ‘Resurrection,’ weed heads will laugh over the first time he got “high” rolling up grass from the lawn and critics should appreciate his honesty in admitting he once moved drugs and pulled a gun on someone.
While he’s a father, friend, son and lover to many of the real-life characters in his book, the bearded rap star, who’s currently crafting his ninth album, ‘The Dreamer, The Believer,’ comes across as a fine-tuned raconteur for those he shares his life story with. Read on as he opens up about comparing himself to Basquiat, giving his book to Dr. Maya Angelou for the first time, acknowledging Kanye West’s personal influence and the meaning of love.
Why did you feel this was the appropriate time to come out with a book?
I initially didn’t think I should be writing a book at this moment but after talks with my manager and he told me his perspective on it, I realized that a book could be inspiring to someone, it could motivate someone and if I give my truth, it could even, like, just remind people about love and happiness and the journey of life. So I felt this chapter in my life, which is the first 30-some-odd years, I needed to recall that, and remember that now when I’m even there to remember it. This is the first chapter, really. This is one chapter in my life and I felt good recalling that and sharing it with people.
Was there an experience in your life that you didn’t plan on including but at the last minute decided it was imperative?
Well, actually I gotta say the last chapter, of me going to the White House and me going from the plantation where I was doing research to the White House to doing ‘Hell on Wheels,’ that was one of the pop-up moments. I was actually filming the ‘Hell on Wheels’ TV series and it just popped up, and then I called Adam, my co-writer, and we just discussed it. He was like, “Man, we gotta write this.”
You compare the way you compose your lyrics to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s approach to painting. When did you come across Basquiat and why did you feel a connection with him?
Well, you know, the first way I came across Basquiat was in a film. Jeffrey Wright was in a film about Basquiat. I discovered who he was and I really loved his artistry. I loved his paintings, the ones that I saw. I started learning more about him. When I compare myself to him, I always try to also say that when you use words, you want to paint with different colors and be very spontaneous and just let your art come through you. I thought Basquiat embodied that with what he did. There was just this rawness. And the more and more I find out about him, after seeing a couple documentaries, I mean he loved hip-hop, too.
There’s also discussion on how it was rare for you to write out your lyrics but when you were invited to the White House earlier this year, it was the first time in two decades that you wrote down your words. Why do you felt you changed your process in that moment?
Well, I mean because it was more of a poetic thing than a rhythm, lyric thing. I only wrote down the intro and then I went into this other piece that I had called ‘The Believer.’ But that was just spur of the moment. I was like, because I’ma have to do this without really a major music pattern, I have to write it down. Doing that performance and speaking that out there at the White House was an out-of-body experience. I felt like, man, I was on just a natural high, a creative high. It was like one of the greatest moments in my life really.
Maya Angelou is quoted on the book’s cover as saying it’s a “magnificent memoir.” How did Maya come to read the book and give her opinion on it?
Dr. Angelou and I had connected a couple years ago and I’ve gotten to know her more and I really love her and I respect her. I was at her birthday event last year… we gave her the book to read. We wanted her to be around it and support it. She liked it well enough to give a quote, ’cause she’s very honest and a beautiful human being. We gave it to her with hopes that she would say something positive about it and she did.
You also share that the most important word in your vocabulary is love. Why is that such a prominent factor for you?
I am a grateful that I come from love. My mother gave me love, a lot of love at home. I had love from my friends. That helped me to be a loving person. Even though I didn’t grow up with my father in my home, I still felt love from him. When you’re provided love, you’re able to give it. I think I was provided with it strongly and I feel like I can give it in a way. And that word, when you think about love, it’s not just only in boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, it’s like, do you love what you do? Do you love growing? Do you love being creative? Do you love good food? Love is such a powerful word. It’s something very special and unique about it. The reason why I endorse it so much is just because it’s welcoming. You know, it’s the way we should be living, loving things, and loving ourselves, loving each other, loving God, loving life.
Four women you’ve seriously dated are featured in the book. Some entertainers are very private about that aspect of their life. Did you struggle with expressing your relationship with Serena Williams, for example, since you had never been so candid before?
That relationship while I was writing the book was very present. I didn’t go too deep into it that because it was present. I think that when you are in a situation that’s a family situation — I’m calling family meaning somebody close to you like your family — I don’t feel like you should exploit that for any purpose of public consumption. You shouldn’t exploit it. It should be held sacred to me, those relationships. I talked a little bit about us and different things. I didn’t give everything when it comes to that because it was a present thing when I was writing it.
Has she ever read that part in the book now that the two of you are no longer together?
I don’t know. I don’t think so. I can’t even say cause she hasn’t told me if she read that. I believe she would if she did.
Kanye West is a part of the book as well. His boldness influenced your artistry. Why did you want to give him shine?
I mean he’s been an influence on me as a human being and in my career. I think he deserves that respect because he’s a very gifted and good-hearted person and somebody I really love and respect. When I’m talking about my life, I gotta acknowledge that this guy has influenced my life.
How has writing ‘One Day It’ll All Make Sense’ affected the way you’re recording material for your new album, ‘The Dreamer, The Believer’?
I mean it just keeps me open. I feel like I’ve been an open artist anyway. I talk about personal things but when you write a book, you get to elaborate, it’s more in-depth. I think the book just helped me to stay open. Sometimes I’ve experienced being, like, OK man, they know that I’m a positive rapper, a positive artist, I do songs about love and I do songs about God and life and social awareness, too. I do songs about those things so sometimes I feel the responsibility that I just have to do those and not talk about other stuff. But I think evolving and things like this book helped me in a way like, hey, you reveal all of who you are, there’s nothing to hide, just be you.
Can you name a person who has read it and what they’ve said that’s touched you?
I’ve had people come up to me — nobody famous yet — but I mean people come up and say that this book, they never knew it was gonna be this good, like, because of how honest and raw it is. The voice of my mother and her story, and her telling her story and her perspective really added such an incredible dimension they saying. They say they really love the honesty and the heart you feel in the letters — the letters is about the chapter. I think people are more surprised that I was open and at the same token, “Hey, I can actually get inspiration out of this.”