Eleven-times-nominated, two-time Grammy winner Common, 36, is still best-known for his socially conscious rhymes on albums like Be and Finding Forever, but that probably won't be the case for long. Like so many rappers, he's been bitten by the proverbial acting bug. Last year, he appeared in the shoot-'em-up Smokin' Aces and American Gangster, while this year he's already shown up onscreen in the quickly-forgotten Keanu Reeves-fronted cop drama Street Kings. Last week, he'll share screen time with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman in the comic-book action film Wanted. If that's not impressive enough, he's landed a major supporting role in the next Terminator sequel. New Times recently sat down with the rapper, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, to get a sense of why he's taken to acting so much lately.
New Times: What about stepping in front of the camera appealed to you?
Common: When you're an artist, you want to grow as you create. I think acting's just an expansion of my artistry. When you love something, you love it. I found that I love this. I'm not surprised I did, but I am surprised by how it made me feel. I was learning something about myself acting and about people. You relate to people a whole lot differently because you've walked in their shoes a bit.
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Has that affected your work in the recording studio at all?
I deal with characters more. I always dealt with the story, but now I tell the story of the person and how did they get to be this way. Also, when I'm rapping, I try to make sure the emotion is coming through like I would with a character. I've been doing hip-hop for a long time. It's been my sole means of expression. With me doing movies, it gives me another outlet artistically and another way to survive and create income — which allows me to make music more freely. At some point, music will become [more than a way] to make a living. It will just be something I want to do, while acting will be my living.
Your latest album, Invincible Summer, is dropping this August. What can we expect from that?
You can expect some fresh music you've never heard from Common before, especially with the Neptunes producing it. The inspiration came to me from being out at the clubs. I'd say, "Man, I want people to feel my music that way." The new record is just good summertime music that you... can sit back, smile, kick it to. I say smile on the album so many times. The album is really about people smiling.