Common has worn many hats over the years as a rapper, actor, author and activist. With a career spanning over 33 years, the Chicago native has used every outlet possible to infuse activism into his art. This year, he’s doing it through a commitment to health and wellness.
ESSENCE spoke exclusively with Common about his new YouTube series Com+Well, a six-part series where he lets fans in on his journey to live his healthiest life. He even sits down with various health experts about nutrition, fitness, mindfulness and even gardening. All of them have helped him along his path to live cleaner, and the intent is that it will inspire you to do the same. The project was developed during quarantine and was inspired by the rapper’s quest to live holistically mind, body and soul.
ESSENCE: What inspired you to create Com + Well?
Common: With performing and a lot of things that I’ve done have benefitted from health and wellness, but I never really shared that with people. It’s part of the reason I’m happier and can keep a positive outlook on life even when things going on in the world are heavy. During this quarantine, I’ve had so many conversations that were just based on the pandemic, and what’s going on with Black people. I was like, man, we got to build ourselves up to a mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy place to operate from, or else [we’re all going to feel] depression and anxiety. I don’t think they secrets, but they’re things I never shared that. This is part of my activism.
In one of the Com+Well episodes, you spoke growing up in the south side of Chicago and eating foods that weren’t healthy. When did you learn to change your diet as a form of self-care?
I was first introduced to what a vegetarian is through KRS-1 and Rakim saying they eat fish and no pork. That was already mind-blowing for me. I didn’t stop immediately, but these are people that were heroes to me. When we trace back the foods that we eat that we got on plantations being enslaved, some of those foods were the scraps. That has been part of the foundation of our diet. In a lot of our communities, the cheaper foods are in our stores. The foods with a lot of sugar and preservatives really lead to disease and stress. The reason why I look at [changing my diet] as activism, because when I saw the change that was happening by taking care of myself, I recognized that nobody can truly be the highest level activist if they don’t have self-activism. Wellness is part of the revolution.
Living healthy has clearly been something that’s changed you for the better. But what do you do in those moments of weakness where you may not feel like working out, or you just want to eat a cheeseburger instead of a salad? Where do you find the willpower to push through?
When you get into health and wellness, that doesn’t mean you turn into a straight vegetable. You still can enjoy [food] and have fun and but you got to have balance. I definitely go through days where I’m like, “man I do not feel like working out” or “this sea moss doesn’t taste as good.” But, in all truth once you start making [healthy foods] part of your lifestyle, you start losing the desire for certain things. There’s been times where people have been eating some chicken. I’m like, damn I miss it. But overall, it’s not something that I really have a taste for. But that came over time. It’s funny because the more I started disciplining myself in one area, it helped out in other areas. When I was able to stop eating certain foods, I was able to cut down on the drinking as much. For me as a southside dude growing up, [me and my friends] would always go get beers and chill. But that wasn’t always productive. I keep my eyes on the prize and remember what the vision is. And I feel even better when I don’t feel like working out, and then I do it anyway. To be able to push through, to be able to focus when you don’t want to, is how you get the destinations you want to get to. You actually begin look at yourself as more powerful.
You’ve been open about your relationship with Tiffany Haddish, and how you’ve been quarantining together. Do you and Tiffany practice health and fitness together?
Tiffany and I are in a good space. I really enjoy her and care for her a lot. We support each other and she’s a beautiful person. She’s a forward thinker and a very intelligent woman. And, like, really down to earth – not just down to earth, but cares about people and connects with human beings. I love that about her. When it comes to living healthy, I’m able to be me and she’s able to be her. She definitely eats foods that I don’t eat. But, but she is very aware. She drinks a lot of water. She makes sure she takes her supplements and adds stuff like turmeric to her juices. She works out. She’s definitely health aware and has her own focus and discipline when it comes to that.