Exclusive - Common Extended Interview

November 3, 2016 - Common 11/03/2016 Views: 15,136

Rapper Common describes the racial injustices that inspired his album "Black America Again" and discusses working with Ava DuVernay on the Netflix documentary "13th." (6:53)

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Please welcome Common!

-♪ -(cheering and applause)

Appreciate that, man.

-Welcome to the show.-Appreciate y'all.

Welcome, welcome,welcome to the show.

Thank you for having me, man.

Welcome to the show, man.

-It's great to see you.-It is so good to have you here.

I've been a fan of yoursfor so long.

-Thank you, man. I love whatyou're doing. -Rapping along.

-I love what you're doing.Thanks, man. -Thank you so much,

man. Thank you so much.Let's get straight into it.

Let's talk about the album, Black America Again.

Uh, this is a-a powerful album.

A lot of people going... Youknow, it's one of those albums,

one of those conversationsthat America needs

to be having right now.

You're an artist.

It's always a precrar...precarious decision to make--

do you get involvedin a conversation around race

and around politics?And you've clearly decided yes.

Why now?

Yeah, well, you know,Paul Robeson said, like,

"Artists are the gatekeepersof the truth."

And in a time where we dealwith a lot of politicians

who may not be giving us truth,um...

You know, in a time whereit's a dire situation in many...

I don't want to sayit's just dire,

because it is some beautifulthings about our country,

-but we know it's critical timesright now. -Yeah.

And I think, you know,

the artist can delivera lot of the truth.

The artist can delivermotivation,

and that's reallywhat I chose to do

because I feel likeit's my duty.

I have a microphone,

I have an outlet to speakto multitudes of people,

so, I mean, I have to usethis music for that.

Yeah, you have powerful songson this album.

Comes out at midnight,

and I'm waitingto get the album at midnight.

-Thank you.-But I've gotten to listen

to some of the snippetsthat have come out so far,

and you havereally powerful songs

speaking about everythingthat's going on.

The shootings,the police violence,

violence in Chicago,in and around what we're seeing.

Even, you know, reallycalling out Donald Trump

-for what he's doing.-Yeah.

Um, when you're writingthose songs,

when you are thinking of that,what are you hoping you achieve?

I'm hoping I activate in people,

um, I empower people to-to findtruth and their freedom.

And also, just, like,

empower them to go outand be active to do more.

-Yeah. -Like, when I gota chance to be a part of, um,

the Selma filmand be a part of, you know,

doing the songwith John Legend, "Glory,"

it was, like, it reallypushed me to a new level

-of wanting to be...to do more. -Yeah.

I'd already had my foundationand been doing things

in the community,but it's, like,

the people that are my heroes,they were actively

every day workingtowards bettering our country.

Um, that's the Muhammad Alis,the Dr. Kings,

you know, the President Obamas,those are people I look up to

and respect, so...I want to do that work.

And that's what, um,I'm doing within the music,

but I also use this platform,too, just to express...

I think oneof the issues that...

one of the most difficult issueswe have in the country

is just humanizing black life,

-Yeah. -just people seeingblack life as, like...

you know, this is a human being,like, these are...

We have millions of peoplein jail right now,

and the majority of them are...are br... black and brown,

and they're not treatedas human beings.

You know, so... and when we lookat what's been happening in...

in the streets when it comes tosome of the police officers...

You know, for you to shoot downsomebody with their hands up,

you can't... you can't lookat them as a human being.

-Yeah. -'Cause your lifeis not threatened,

so why would you takesomeone's life?

So I think... and I don't think,you know, for me,

creating music and creating art,you don't have to preach it,

you just be it, you just let it,you know, just be present.

Like, black America againis not only about protests

and... and justiceand injustice,

but it's about hope and loveand joy and just...

and expressing that, and about,you know, spirituality.

That's a powerful message, uh,it's a really powerful message.

(cheering, applause)

You, uh...

You-you worked again with, uh,

-Ava DuVernay on, uh,the film the 13th. -Yeah.

An amazing filmI suggest everybody wa-watches

about mass incarcerationin America.

And, again,you talk about that story.

And that's-that's a tough thingto see, you know?

Mass incarceration seems like a coincidence,

-seems like a mistake.-Yeah.

And then was itas shocking for you to see

how it was all laid out,how it was planned, in essence?

Well, you know...I honestly didn't...

You know, it's funny,because growing up

on the south side of Chicago,

you have friends, uncles

that have beenpart of the prison system.

So you kind of looked at it assomething that just happened.

But, um, I wasblessed enough, recently,

to do this...do this documentary myself,

called America Divided,

and I got to meetMichelle Alexander.

And I interviewed her,and when I interviewed her

I was like, "I have to read The New Jim Crow."

So I read The New Jim Crow, and-and the book really

just broke it down for me,so I was in that space,

but when I saw the 13th... and I was like,

"Ava DuVernayconnected the dots."

And it's something thatI think we all need to know

is part of American history.And it may not be the side

that we want to acknowledge,but it has happened,

from slavery to Jim Crowto mass incarceration,

there's been a way to keep blackpeople as second-class citizens.

And we need to know that,'cause everybody in America

i-is not supporting that.Like, I don't care...

it-it's so many, like, othernationalities that's not black

that really want to see justicefor all people.

And it's something that we needto be awakened to, you know?

And-and the 13th, I'm-I'mgrateful that I got to write,

uh, "Letter to the Free,"um, because i-in my heart

I feel like, man,we deserve the-the equality.

And people that aredeemed as criminals

deserve forgiveness,deserve redemption,

and deserve a second chance.And, um, that's why

I was grateful... You know,I actually saw Av-Ava...

I told her I wanted to dothe song for-for the film,

and she was like, "Okay, cool,

so you could submit the song,uh, know, and check it out."

And then-and then I saw herat... I was at the White House,

um, at President Obama'sbirthday party,

and it was... I came up to her.

I had a little wine, and I...

and I walked up to her andI started just rapping the song

in her ear.Like, I started writing

before I'd even seen the movie,'cause I knew the spirit of it.

And I was rapping in earand she s... she was listening,

but I could tellshe was a little distracted

and she said I was...she was trying to figure out

should she listen to my rap

or pay attention to thepresident and the first lady

that's right over there.

And, um, she eventuallyli-listened to the rap,

and that's how I got to be onthe-on the project and had...

-"Letter to the Free."-Well, thank God for wine, man.

-Yeah. -Thank God for wineand President Obama's birthday.

Yes, exactly. I'm really excitedfor everything you're doing.

Good luck with the album.