Endorphin Bath & Todd E. Jones presents...
 Hardcore Hip-Hop Interviews
by Todd E. Jones aka The New Jeru Poet

Interview: COMMON
“Riding The Hip-Hop Ferris Wheel At The Electric Circus”
Interview: COMMON
(Feb 2003)

Common is anything but a common emcee. First known as Common Sense (but had to drop the “Sense” due to legal problems), Common gained enormous critical acclaim with the love song to hip-hop titled “I Used To Love H.E.R.” where he uses falling in love with a woman as a metaphor for his relationship with hip-hop. After releasing many albums, (each one sounding different from the next), Common matured into an eclectic artist who takes chances and makes soulful hip-hop music that is extremely different from the mainstream. His last couple of albums had deep soulful vibes, political messages, a love of Blackness, an intense spirituality, and a tender touch of romance. His latest LP “Electric Circus” spawned his biggest hit to date, “Come Close” featuring Mary J. Blidge. He has been produced by extremely respected producers like DJ Premier, The Neptunes, DJ Hi-Tek, Jay Dee and ?uestlove of The Roots. On the mic, he has worked with Talib Kweli, Mos Def, The Roots, Jill Scott, Q-Tip and a myriad of other well-respected emcees. While Common has been much more sober, his music has become more psychedelic. Each album takes creative chances both lyrically and musically. His latest LP, “Electric Circus”, is the perfect title since the LP takes us on a romantic evening through rides, freak shows, sweets, and soulful rhythm. It’s a powerful and unique hip-hop album influenced by The Black Panthers, Pink Floyd, 70’s rock music, Southern gospel music, New Orleans jazz, 60’s soul music, and the struggle for human rights. Now, with his hit “Come Close” and his well-publicized romance with Erykah Badu, Common is riding his own hip-hop ferris wheel at his own “Electric Circus”. Erykah Badu and Common are considered “The Neo-Soul Black celebrity couple.” Sharing magazine covers, tour busses, and their music videos, Erykah and Common hope to use their love to inspire us. They are two extremely unique and uncompromising individuals who found each other in a sometimes cruel plastic world, where most people conform. With peace, love, freedom, and soulful psychedelic music, they are sparking their own revolution and making love all the way through it. On a cold February evening, I had a chance to speak to Common with Erykah Badu in the background.

T.JONES: “How are you doing?”
COMMON: “I’m good. I’m very good.”

T.JONES: “I love your new album ‘Electric Circus’. One reason I love it is because it does not sound like any hip-hop LP out there.”
COMMON: “I didn’t want to either.”

T.JONES: “Why is the new album called ‘Electric Circus’?”
COMMON: “That was the description of where we were going with the music. ‘Electric Circus’ to me, symbolizes freedom in the music, the colors in it, and also the intensity in it. Also, it symbolizes how we can take the music all over to many different places but it still has a continuity.”

T.JONES: “Do you have a favorite song on ‘Electric Circus’?”
COMMON: “It changes most of the time but today it’s ‘Aquarius’ but tomorrow, it may be ‘Soul Power’. The next day it may be ‘Heaven Somewhere’. I have favorite ones for different moods. When I’m performing, I love ‘Electric Wire Hustle Flower’.”

T.JONES: “How did you hook up with Mary J. Blidge on ‘Come Close’? What was she like to work with?”
COMMON: “I have always been a fan of Mary J. Blidge’s music. I just basically rapped on a remix of an international version of a song she had. From there, I just let her know that I wanted to do some music with her and I gave her some music. We did one song but we ended up not using it. Then, ‘Come Close’ was the next song where I had a vision that Mary would sound good on it. Once I used Neptunes and Pharrell wrote the chorus and produced the song, we both had the impression to get Mary on it. The track has that deep soul that she’s got.”

T.JONES: “You and Erykah Badu make an incredible couple. You are the neo-soul celebrity couple and Essence magazine makes you guys out to be the ‘perfect couple’. With all of this publicity, is there pressure (or more pressure) on the relationship?”
COMMON: “Nah, not really. In some ways, it does make you live up to certain expectations but I think Erykah and I are aware that we are not perfect people. We are beautiful together and we want people to know that we care about each other and that two people can love each other and grow together. But that does not mean that everything is always going to be perfect within the relationship. We try to get that across and hope that our relationship can be an example for other young people who are in love and who care about each other. They may have baby-mothers or baby-daddies or working through the new Black family. We want to really be good examples on how to love. We ain’t going to be perfect but we pray that we just keep growing together and be a good reflection for people.”

T.JONES: “Being that both of you are eccentric artists and also successful, does the touring and studio time make things hard on the relationship?”
COMMON: “I don’t see it as too hard. We both love our work and we both have other things that we produce besides our relationship. So, when we are together or away from each other, we will always be in tuned with each other. We care about each other but work is work. We have other things to do in life. Being that we are blessed with the opportunity to go out and reach each other, I can hop on a tour bus and roll with her or she can slide on tour with me. I experience that freedom too.”

T.JONES: “Your album ‘Like Water For Chocolate’ seem to give birth to The Soulquarians. Who exactly are The Soulquarians and what is your role?”
COMMON: “It’s not just one list of people. I think that title came about on the producers who are of the Aquarius sign. Soulquarians began with D’Angelo and ?uestlove, James Poyser and Jay Dee. We took a picture of all of us together and it made us fall under that umbrella. We are a family and we don’t got no name. From Eyrkah Badu to Bilal to Mos Def to Q-Tip to The Roots to Dead Prez to Slum Village and Jay Dee. All of us are from the same musical womb. We just all want to be creative and do good music. That’s our family right there. We bleed the same blood, you dig?”

T.JONES: “Alcohol used to play a big role in your early work. You held a beer bottle the whole time in the video for ‘I Used To Love H.E.R.’ and made numerous references to drinking and alcoholism. In one song you say ‘Dealing with alcoholism and afro centricity.’ Did you once consider yourself an alcoholic? Do you still drink? What was that transition like?”
COMMON: “Yeah, I mean, during those days, I was drinking a lot. You know, drinking a lot. I was just going out and getting drunk. Pieces are known to have addictive tendencies sometimes but I wouldn’t go so far to call myself an alcoholic. I always knew how to do without it. I did drink a lot though. It was a big part of my life, a big part of my existence. I stopped. I stopped in November of 2000. Since then, I have just been clearer. It’s been clearer. I’ve been feeling a littler lighter and little more peaceful. I’m getting more in tune with myself because I couldn’t hide behind the liquor any more. I just had to be myself in every situation. I had to figure out how Rasheed, how Common feels in different situations. Not having the mask of liquor or the protector of liquor by saying ‘It was the liquor that made me do it’, it enhances my courage.” 

T.JONES: “Stereolab is an incredible French band. I noticed that Jay Dee, Slum Village, and The Roots always refer to them. I think that you are the first hip-hop artist to ever collaborate with them. What is it about them that you love so much? Latitia Sadier of Stereolab sings on ‘New Wave’. How did you hook up with here and what was she like?”
COMMON: “I’m a fan of Stereolab and have been a fan of Stereolab for a minute. I just love their music and went to their concert. I got in contact with Latitia by having my manager get in contact with her manager. Then, I just approached her at their concert, played her the music and she dug it. She was wonderful to work with. I didn’t lay it down in the studio with her. She is a very talented person. When she wrote the vocals, she called and let me hear them over the phone. It was a beautiful and powerful thing. It was just an honor to work with her because I love their work and I think they are courageous space cadets.”

T.JONES: “DJ Premier is one of the most respected producers in hip-hop and he produced a song on your LP ‘Like Water For Chocolate’ titled ‘The 6th Sense’. How did you hook up with him and what was it like working with him?”
COMMON: “Like you said, being that he is one of the most respected producers, I really loved his music throughout the time. Gangstarr has always been one of my favorite groups. I've always wanted to work with him. It was time. I connected with him and seen him in a couple of places. I told him that I wanted to work with him. It took a little time to get up with him but eventually, we got up. That was the last song I recorded for ‘Like Water For Chocolate’. We released ‘Dooinit’ first and then the single and video for ‘The 5th Sense’. Then, we followed it up with ‘The Light’.”

T.JONES: “Do you go into the studio with your rhymes pre-written or do you hear the music first, and then write lyrics?”
COMMON: “I get the music going first and that’s how I roll. I like to let the music take me to wherever I can go vocally.”

T.JONES: “What was it like growing up in Chicago?”
COMMON: “It was a mixture of poor middle class Black life and upper middle class all in the same area. It was very segregated but it was Black and soulful. There was everything from gangs to churches to the Chicken Shack.”

T.JONES: “Your father is a very cool man. He always has those cool spoken-word songs at the end of your albums. Was he strict? How did he discipline you?”
COMMON: “I didn’t grow up with my father, I grew up with my mother. My father wasn’t always there physically but he was spiritually. He left me his words. I still can listen. You got to show that respect.”

T.JONES: “What are some CDs or LPs that you have been listening to lately?”
COMMON: “The same stuff that I have been checking out for a minute, old stuff. I like the N.E.R.D. album. I love The Roots album. ‘The Seed’ is their next single.”

T.JONES: “What was the last incident of racism you encountered?”
COMMON: “Being in this country…. (laughs). I was in this acting class and I don’t know if they know that they are doing it or not, but all the roles I get picked for are those stereotypical Black roles. People get to pick other people to play characters in their stories and I get the traditional rap character, the roles we always get in Hollywood.”

T.JONES: “What was the most fulfilling collaboration you have ever done?”
COMMON: “The one I am most proud of is the one I did with Cee-Lo (of Goodie Mob) called ‘G.O.D. (Gaining One’s Definition). The way he was singing on his verse was something.”

T.JONES: “Where were you on Sept. 11th and how did you deal with it? How do you think 9-11 has affected hip-hop?”
COMMON: “I was in New York and I was just trying to figure out what is going on in the world. I experienced the unknown, The Revelation. It’s time we start focus on what’s going on in our lives and try to pay a little more attention. We get caught up in being in the music industry and trying to achieve stuff and success. I wasn’t really paying attention to what’s going on in the world. Now, I don’t know a lot about world politics but when it comes to my mind, I can let out a prayer or two to people. It taught me and other people that we are not too far from anything. It taught us that anything can happen. God is showing us that. I heard the Space Shuttle exploded over a place called Palestine, Texas. Come on, man. It’s symbolic.”

T.JONES: “What are some major misconceptions about you?”
COMMON: “That I’m only into certain types of music. I don’t really know because it’s hard for me to say what other people think. A lot of people don’t come up and tell me to my face. One thing I know is that some people think that I’m only into certain things and that I’m stubborn. It’s true sometimes.”

T.JONES: “What are some emcees that you would like to collaborate with in the future?”
COMMON: “Nas. I like Nas. That’s it.”

T.JONES: “What are some producers that would like to collaborate with in the future?”
COMMON: “Erykah Badu (laughs)…I’ve been working with the producers I want to work with. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity that I can work with the producers that I really love.”

T.JONES: “Word association time. I’m going to say a name of an artist or producer and you say the first word that pops in your head. So, if I said ‘Chuck D’, you may say ‘Revolution’. Ok?”
COMMON: “If you said ‘Chuck D’, I would say ‘Yes! The rhythm! The rebel!..”
T.JONES: “Del The Funky Homosapian”
COMMON: “Hella Good.”
T.JONES: “Eminem”
COMMON: “Emcee.”
T.JONES: “The Coup”
COMMON: “Revolutionary.”
T.JONES: “Lone Catalysts”
COMMON: “Never heard of them.”
T.JONES: “Phife Dawg”
COMMON: “Tribe Called Quest.”
T.JONES: “Jay-Z”
COMMON: “Emcee.”

T.JONES: “What do you think your last couple of albums would sound like if you never met Jay Dee?”
COMMON: “I don’t even know. I don’t think like that because I think that everything happens for a reason. It just came about. God put me and Jay Dee together to do certain things. I can’t even think like that because it already happened.

T.JONES: “What advice would you give to an artist trying to make it in the music business?”
COMMON: “Be yourself. Get in-tuned with yourself enough to be yourself and focus on who you are. Don’t be afraid to go out and be who you are. Don’t be afraid to explore and do different things. Be true to yourself and work hard. Have faith in yourself and God. If you remain yourself, no matter what is going on in the industry, you can be appreciated. You need to be heard. Do what you do and work at it.”

T.JONES: “What’s that new song you did with Mya?”
COMMON: “It’s a commercial. We originally did a whole track but we knew that we were doing it for a commercial. We decided to make a song and they decided to keep what they wanted to keep. It’s not released on vinyl or as a single. It’s only a commercial.”

T.JONES: “What do you want on your epitaph?”
COMMON: “I don’t even know. I’m not thinking like that. I believe that thoughts and words are so powerful that I don’t want to put any of that stuff in the air. You know? What I’m leaving for people is being left as I keep continuing to enjoy my life. That’s what it is.”

T.JONES: “What can we expect from Common in the future?”
COMMON: “Expect growth. Expect fun, good music. Expect me to come out! The remix of ‘Come Close’ is coming out soon. We are going out to promote the next single too. I’m going on tour with Gangstarr and Talib Kweli. It’s going to be dope." 

T.JONES: “Who’s on the ‘Come Close’ remix?”
COMMON: “I can’t really say. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”

T.JONES: “What will be the next single?”
COMMON: “’I Am Music’.”

T.JONES: “Any last comments for the people who will read this?”
COMMON: “Love yourself, be yourself, know yourself. Thank you to everybody who is supporting me. Make sure you go out and get the new album by The Roots. Get Erykah Badu, get Billal, get Talib Kweli, get the new Mos Def album when it comes out. Erykah Badu’s new album will be coming out real soon. Yeah, she can emcee too! This was my 10th interview today and I’m glad that you asked me some things that were different. I had a good time and I appreciate the support. Todd, I definitely appreciate the time and Thank you!”

T.JONES: “Hey, I appreciate it! I love your albums and I think you’re doing something incredible for hip-hop. I think you and Erykah make a great couple and I wish you have a long, healthy and happy life together.”
EYRKAH BADU: “Thank you!”
COMMON: “Thank you, Todd. Peace!”

Thank you COMMON!

For the Official COMMON Website goto:
-interview done by Todd E. Jones aka The New Jeru Poet

For ANOTHER version of this interview, check out
COMMON - INTERVIEW at HipHop-Elements.com by Todd E. Jones
COMMON - INTERVIEW at MVremix.com by Todd E. Jones

Hardcore Hip Hop INTERVIEWS
This interview can also be seen on the print and web publication PUNCHLINE MAGAZINE.
Goto: http://www.punchlineinc.com
 Hardcore Hip-Hop Record Review ARCHIVES

 e n d o r p h i n
b a t h
 Hardcore Hip-Hop Record Reviewz
 The Never Ending Rhymes
(f/The New Jeru Poets)
Home Page
Home Page