Published Aug 06, 2014Common recently released his 10th solo album, the Chicago-focused Nobody's Smiling, and the record showcases the rapper taking a new approach to his music, working with fast-rising artists as opposed to established collaborators.
"It was important for me because I hadn't done that on any of my records, putting people on," Common tells Exclaim! "Most of the artists I've been blessed to work with on my records have been people like Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu or Kanye — artists that have already started their momentum. I mean, not that these [artists don't have momentum]: Dreezy has a buzz, Lil Herb has a buzz, Vince Staples has a buzz, y'know they got movement going. But it's obviously an audience that I'm introducing them to, and I also gotta recognize that some of their audience is going to be introduced to me too [laughs]."
Common linked up with Chicago drill artist Lil Herb on Nobody's Smiling track "The Neighborhood." The two wouldn't seem like natural allies, but Common affirms their hometown connections.
"I appreciate what he does and what he brings the perspective of [being in] Chicago and the rawness he has and I'm a part of that movement, really, as I care about the artists that's coming from Chicago," says Common. "We don't have to have the same type of music but I appreciate some of the work [he's] doing."
Other Chicago artists featured on Nobody's Smiling include rising female MC Dreezy, who is also included along with other Windy City rappers on various versions of the album cover. Now that Nobody's Smiling has been released, Common intends to continue working with No I.D., his childhood friend and now Def Jam executive who produced the whole album.
"I will be doing something with Cocaine 80s, which is [singer and songwriter] James Fauntleroy and No I.D.," says Common. "I'm like an honorary member, and Jhene Aiko is like somewhat part of the group also."
Don't expect a new collaboration between Common and another noted Chicagoan Kanye West anytime soon, however.
"Nah, I haven't done anything with Ye in a minute," says Common. "That's just my guy, that's my brother, I love him, but we haven't done any creating."
The same goes for Common's long-touted Nas.Com joint project with Nas, but Common hasn't given hope on that yet.
"Hopefully in the future that will happen. I feel like it should happen because that's one of my favourite artists and when the time is right I would love to do it," says Common.
In the meantime, Common is staying busy with his acting career, having just wrapped filming the fourth season of AMC drama Hell on Wheels in Calgary, and playing civil rights activist James Bevel in the upcoming Oprah Winfrey-produced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic Selma. Common affirms his acting has informed his writing process as a musician and will also be reflected in his concerts.
"I feel more free as an artist," says Common. "My live show is gonna be performance and it's gonna be like theatre."
Read our exclusive interview with Common here.