Common Says Maya Angelou on New LP, ‘Blue Sky’ Is Relatable
Three years after the lukewarm success of his last album, ‘Universal Mind Control,’ rapper Common is ready to take his fans back to the basics. The Chicago MC, whose lyrical intrigue has long been based around his appreciation for spoken word poetry, chose to take listeners in a new, yet sonically familiar direction for his latest album, ‘The Dreamer, The Believer.’ Unlike his electro-inspired previous album, this project runs along the lines of the classic Common tracks closer to previous albums like ‘Be’ and ‘Finding Forever.’
For ‘The Dreamer, The Believer,’ the 39-year-old reunited with longtime collaborator No I.D. to produce the entire project and chose the inspirational track, ‘Blue Sky,’ as his lead single. “I really liked the song when we made it,” Common tells The BoomBox on the set of the song’s music video in Los Angeles. “After myself and No I.D. [talked], he was like, ‘Man, this song is really a song that can appeal to a mass audience. But you’re still being Common. You’re talking about fulfilling a dream, having hope and being inspiring.'”
The duo originally paired together for Common’s 1992 debut and two albums thereafter, and according to the Grammy nominee, the chemistry between the two is less of a producer-rapper relationship and more of two “old friends” helping to elevate each other’s talents. “He’s a true producer in the fact that he’ll be like, ‘Man, why don’t you try this idea,'” Common continues. “[This album] was the essence of what we were and the essence of who we are. We wanna make good music.”
After testing the waters with a couple other promotional tracks, Common and his team settled on ‘Blue Sky’ because of its ability to appeal to radio and his core fans. “It’s a song that will play on the radio, so it’s like this song is one of the songs that I feel like I haven’t had in my career,” he admits. “Even the response that we’ve already been getting online… a younger crowd can relate to it. It still can meet that crowd but I’m able to be me. It can appeal to all nationalities. This song has that feel to it and I think that was one of the most important reasons why we chose it.”
Upon hearing the track, which samples Electric Light Orchestra’s ‘Mr. Blue Sky,’ Common was instantly attracted to the concept. “I was like, ‘What do I think about when I think of a blue sky?'” says the recent author of ‘One Day It’ll All Make Sense.’ “When I see a blue sky, that means it’s going to be a good day, and I started thinking about my dreams and saying, ‘Look, this is what I come from to what I’m achieving and I want to achieve more. It’s truly a journey.”
The video, directed by Paris, features vignettes of various people all striving to fulfill different dreams. Its a concept that hits home for Common. Introducing himself to the hip-hop scene by way of 1992’s ‘Can I Borrow A Dollar,’ for nearly two decades, the rapper, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., has watched his career branch off to appearing in major motion pictures like 2009’s ‘Transformers Salvation,’ and authoring his memoir.
With so many different projects in the works, getting back into the studio to record ‘The Dreamer, The Believer’ came with its own creative shifts, starting with his decision to leave his record label, Universal Music Group, after 10 years. He moved over to Warner Bros. Records over the summer and set out to get the ball rolling on promoting the album. A slot on the famed Rock the Bells concert series, in which he performed 2006’s ‘Be’ in its entirety, also gave Common the chance to talk about the new album, and perform the Nas-assisted new track ‘Ghetto Dreams,’ fueling talk of a collaborative album which he has said is a possibility.
Perhaps the biggest feature on the album is that of acclaimed poet Maya Angelou on the song ‘The Dreamer,’ for which she penned an original poem. “It’s incredible!” Common exclaims. “I met Maya Angelou, it was a benefit I was doing for this foundation, it was this poet that was supposed to do it and he didn’t do it, so my mother told somebody who worked on my team ‘Why don’t we see if we can get in touch with Maya Angelou,’ and then out of nowhere she [Maya] was like, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ So she did it and we’ve been cool ever since.”
‘The Dreamer, The Believer’ drops Nov. 22.