Common Wants Your Mind: Rapper Tests Boundaries on New Album
"I always wanted to be on stage and be a star. Since my mother took me to some Jackson 5 concert ...I think it was the 'Victory' tour ...and since I seen Big Daddy Kane doing shows," Loni Rashid Lynn Jr. says from his cell phone after plugging it in to ensure lasting battery life.
"I always wanted to see people reacting to my music." Eight albums ago he was Common Sense, a local Chicago emcee famous for thought provoking poetic lyricism that generated some buzz but didn't quite make him a house-hold name. Today, Common, minus the "Sense," is not only known for his music but also for his acting. His eighth release, 'Universal Mind Control,' is a trippy alternative ride that pays homage to Afrika Bambatta and the Universal Zulu Nation's dance music of the 80s.
"Universal Mind Control is definitely a progression from what I've done before. The sound has more of an international and futuristic tone to it. It does feel like I combined rock with electronic sounds and hip-hop to create something that knocks. The energy of the album is really about having fun and letting go." While on tour overseas with Kanye West last winter Common's new sound was inspired by an elevated global perspective. When his personal DJ declined to play his music in a club he realized that he wasn't worldwide enough for an international arena. The result was him getting in the studio with the Neptunes and West to birth this latest work.
Coming off the lackluster sales of 2001's 'Eclectic Circus' (Common's first music departure from the emcee his fans grew to love) and the impressive sales of 'Be' and 'Finding Forever,' Common isn't worried about how his core audience will react to the diverse music. "I'm a dreamer," he says. "I always believe each album I do is [going to] be a great success. I felt as I was listening to the songs I was making not only is my audience going to enjoy it but more people that were aware of Common through other facets in my career would be able to enjoy it."
'Punch Drunk Love' featuring West and named after the 2002 Adam Sandler exemplifies his love for film. It not only seeps into his rap-life through titles but in the way he writes rhymes and his ideas for music video treatments. "I think I'm getting more visual with what I'm doing. I was always into stories and I'm able to I think now as a rap artist. I'm able to feel even looser doing what I do because the more you act the more open you become."
He does eventually want the acting to outlive his career as a rapper but in the meantime his two skills will have share equal parts of his life. At his core he will always be a performer most comfortable on stage. "For me that's the reward. The victory is when you get on-stage and you see people saying your words even if you have to win the crowd over. Seeing people react to music that you make." Whether it's in front of thousands of people in a packed stadium or an audience in a dark theater Common wants to touch your mind anyway he can so long as you pay attention.
'Universal Mind Control' hits stores on Dec. 9.