As if his looks aren't enough, rapper-actor Common understands the power of a woman. To that end, the hip-hop legend is hosting a Gala through his Common Ground foundation, which aims to help youth in under-served areas of Chicago and nationally, to celebrate women in excellence and leadership. The event will be held in Common's Windy City hometown and will honor Dr. Maya Angelou, actress Keke Palmer, business executive Dee Robinson Reid and "The View‚" host Sherri Shepherd. ESSENCE.com spoke with the handsome artist about his honorees and how his experiences have shaped his upcoming album, "The Dreamer The Believer..."

Hillary Crosley
Apr, 16, 2011



As if his looks aren't enough, rapper-actor Common understands the power of a woman. To that end, the hip-hop legend is hosting a Gala through his Common Ground foundation, which aims to help youth in under-served areas of Chicago and nationally, to celebrate women in excellence and leadership.

The event will be held in Common's Windy City hometown and will honor Dr. Maya Angelou, actress Keke Palmer, business executive Dee Robinson Reid and "The View‚" host Sherri Shepherd. ESSENCE.com spoke with the handsome artist about his honorees and how his experiences have shaped his upcoming album, "The Dreamer The Believer."

ESSENCE.com: Congratulations on tonight's Common Ground Gala, why honor these women?
COMMON:
We wanted to have honorees that represented different aspects of leadership and success in our culture. We started with Maya Angelou, she's the queen and it doesn't get any greater than that. Dee Robinson is a business power in the Chicago community, she's helped so many people. Sherri Shepard is advancing our culture in media and I thought she was really fresh in "Precious." Keke Palmer is the great promise of the future and my daughter loves [her Nickelodeon show], "True Jackson." It's a good group of Black woman who are contributing to our culture through leadership.

ESSENCE.com: Is this is your first upscale Gala event for Common Ground?
COMMON:
Yeah, we usually do concerts which are fun but we figured we could make a Gala fun too by having people sit down and making it fancy. We're excited.

ESSENCE.com: Does it ever feel strange to acknowledge how far you've come from your first album, 1992's "Can I Borrow A Dollar"?
COMMON:
Sometimes I have to look around and say to myself, 'Man, I can't believe I'm doing this' and thank God. But you have to believe it, that's the only way you can do it.

ESSENCE.com: How does your family respond to fancier events like the Common Ground Gala and the other career strides you've made?
COMMON:
They get most excited about the movies. To be honest, the first time I saw myself on a movie screen in "Smoking Aces" I was like, 'Wow' because I loved movies as a kid but I never thought about being in them. But the more I dreamed about it, the more it could happen. That's why my new album is called, 'The Dreamer The Believer.'

ESSENCE.com: Do you have something to prove with 'The Dreamer...' since many felt 'Universal Mind Control' was too pop-driven?
COMMON:
Yeah, you're going to see the hunger on this one. When I do something experimental and people talk sh—, it gets me charged up but I like those challenges.

The Common Ground Foundation's gala honoring Dr. Angelou, Sherri Shepherd, KeKe Palmer, business leader Dee Robinson Reid takes place today in Chicago.