For a gifted rapper, actor and author with a bevy of new projects, Common’s name belies his singular talent.In the interest of saving time, let’s start by naming the things that Common isn’t good at.
“I ain’t too good at tennis,” he says. “I definitely ain’t good at golf. I can’t draw that well.”
“And I take pride in not being a good liar, either.”
Anything beyond that, though, is pretty much fair game for the 39-year-old multihyphenate. And he’s showing off a good many of his talents this fall with a laundry list of new projects.
Hot on the heels of his New York Times best-selling memoir, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, Common — who’s best known for being a Grammy-winning MC — returns to his musical roots with his first album in three years, The Dreamer, The Believer.
He promises a crowd-pleasing return to the origins of his genre, a sound fans got a taste of on the Nas-assisted lead single, “Ghetto Dreams.”
“It’s, like, soulful, pure hip-hop,” he says of the disc, which was produced by No ID. “It’s hip-hop that people — that I — want to hear.”
As for what people want to see, he’s got that covered, too: His new series, Hell on Wheels, premiered earlier this month on AMC. The buzzworthy drama, about the construction of the transcontinental railroad, stars Anson Mount as a revenge-seeking Confederate soldier turned crew chief and Common as a freed slave who works for him. The show represents a first for Common, who started acting several years ago but had worked exclusively in film until now. Though he admits he wasn’t necessarily looking for a TV series to star in, when he read the script, he knew it was a challenge he wanted to take on.
“This is an emotional role; I feel connected to it on a whole other level,” he says. “To be able to play that character — man, it’s a blessing. I feel a lot of responsibility.”
Fans of his music needn’t worry about his latest on-screen gig — already being hailed as a breakout role for the Chicago native — taking away from his first love; in fact, Common credits his budding acting career with making him more open to collaboration — which, in turn, has made him a better musician.
“With acting … you’re in control of what you do with your character, but between the director, the producers, the editors — you’ve got to let go of a lot of things,” he says. “[Now musically] I don’t hold on to everything. I’m working with good producers like Kanye [West] and No ID. They might throw an idea out, and that opens me up.”
Now if only they could help him with his golf game.