On “When We Move” — the propulsive, Afro-funky jazzercise track that sets your body, soul and spirit in motion on A Beautiful Revolution, Pt. 2Common makes a stirring statement about the culture-shifting force of the Black race: “Kismet kissed it, it’s smeared like lipstick/Colorful on our souls/ A mouth full of gold or a drummer’s roll/Stories get told about us/That’s why things so blah without us/Wherever we are, you can feel the prowess/Whenever we move, yo, we turn the style up/I’ma just give Black power its flowers.”

And when it comes to moving the culture, the most powerful of all to the 49-year-old rapper, actor and activist are Black women. “The first time I went to to Japan, the women there were trying to look like Mary J. Blige,” he says. “Then I went a couple years later, and they were trying to look like T-Boz. Then they was trying to look like Erykah Badu. Then I went, and they were trying to look like Beyoncé. To have that type of influence is powerful.”

Black women have been a source of inspiration for Common’s latest album, A Beautiful Revolution, Pt. 2 — a self-empowering sequel to last year’s A Beautiful Revolution, Pt. 1 — as well as the man born Lonnie Rashid Liston in Chicago’s South Side. “Black women in my personal life have really helped shape me,” says Common, who has been in high-profile relationships with African-American queens like Erykah Badu, Serena Williams and now Tiffany Haddish. “Some of the Black women that I’ve dated, been in relationships with, are crazy talented people, so that’s inspiring in itself. You see the work that they put in, and then how they can still go out and be good family people. That’s been very influential on my personal life, but it also comes through in my art.”

On tracks like “Majesty,” another highlight of A Beautiful Revolution, Pt. 2 — featuring R&B songstress PJ, who returns from Pt. 1 — Common celebrates Black women in a way that hasn’t always been done in hip-hop, with its reputation for misogynistic lyrics. “One of the most manly and beautiful things in life you could do is to celebrate Black women, because Black woman have been actually the most powerful beings on the planet,” he says. “Black women have been the most challenged on the planet, because they’re women and because they’re Black. But they’ve also been some of the most impactful and beautiful and powerful people on the planet. I celebrate them because, man, I see the love and I see the strength. I see the heart, I see the power, I see the pain, I see the joy they bring and how much they give and how hard they work for us as Black people. And so I’m always gonna celebrate our Black women.”

No doubt — that celebration starts at the very beginning of A Beautiful Revolution, Pt. 2, when poet Jessica Care Moore introduces the album just as she did on Pt. 1. “I look at the beginnings of my albums as prayers, like if you were walking into a church,” he says. “You’re walking into this piece of art like this is a beginning prayer. Just having a woman’s voice is … I mean, women birthed us. I believe in the femininity of the creator and the necessity to have the woman lead in certain ways. I love having the woman issuing where we’re going and that voice and that energy, the balance that a woman brings and the light that she brings.”

Common — who also shouts out Amanda Gorman (on “Imagine”) and Vice President Kamala Harris (on “Get It Right”) on A Beautiful Revolution, Pt. 2, while closing the album with another Black female poet, Morgan Parker — has had no issues with letting powerful Black women take the lead as the boss in the relationship sometimes. “I love it because I love a powerful woman,” he says. “I love a woman that’s just, like, going for hers, fulfilling her purpose and her dreams and is committed to it. I support that. I love to have that in a relationship.” 

And as tricky as it can be with two celebrities in a high-profile relationship, he says, “You just gotta find that space and the balance to put as much energy and love into the relationship so that it can sustain and grow because each person puts a lot of work into their career and the things that they love. It’s one of those things where you gotta work through it, you gotta grow through it and communicate.”

After first becoming friends as costars on the set of the 2019 film The Kitchen, Common and Haddish have been growing together as a couple since the pandemic. In fact, after going on a virtual date on Bumble in April 2020, they announced their official relationship on the dating site in August 2020. And their romance passed the test of spending much of quarantine hunkered down together.

“That was very unique, man, because when the world is going through something, it makes you reflect on, ‘If things was ending now, who do I want to be around?’ ” says Common. “Naturally, Tiffany and I just spent a lot of time together, just really enjoying life and being grateful for life and not putting too much pressure on our relationship, just really being present with each other and supportive and having fun. We spent a lot of time together, and then we also understood, ‘I need some time to myself; you need some time to yourself.’ But in  all truth, it was one of the times that I really was still for a relationship, to be able to be present in the relationship and not just be on the move as much.”

And yes, in case you were wondering, the Girls Trip star keeps him in stitches. “She keeps me laughing,” says Common. “It’s that child-like spirit that you love. She possesses that quality. She also possesses an authenticity that I love. I’m gonna know what’s on her mind. I’m gonna know what she’s feeling about me or somebody else or something. I like the way she communicates — that’s important to me. And along with that, the way she treats her family and loved ones is real cool. I’m attracted to that. And then [she has] a big heart. Tiffany is a good-hearted human being, and I love that about her.”

Common was touched — and turned on — when Haddish decided to rock a bald look last year that just about matched his.  “She told me that she always wanted to go bald,” he says. “I love that she did that. I think she looks beautiful with her hair short because you can really see her face. There’s something about when you see a Black woman that wants to do that. There’s a certain confidence and a freedom, and it took courage to do it, and I love that she just did it. I appreciated it. She at one point did match my bald [head], but then she grew hair where I couldn’t grow hair. It’s all good. To me, she’s a beautiful Black woman with short hair, with a wig or whatever.”

As Common prepares to celebrate his 50th birthday in March as well as the 30th anniversary of his debut album, Can I Borrow a Dollar?, next year, the Grammy, Oscar and Emmy winner is surprised to still be in the game. “When I started off rapping, I was just wanting to be heard by Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One and Rakim and Ice Cube and A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul,” he says. “I never knew that hip-hop would take me this far. I just continued to evolve into new places where I could grow, and I’m grateful. It’s all in God’s gifts and God’s blessings that I’m rapping and people are listening. I’m creating new music that has purpose, music that is touching people’s hearts and experiences. Man, that’s God coming through, so I give God the glory on that.”

TOPICS: 

Loading the player...