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Anita and Claudius Meet Common!

Any hip hop aficionado will tell you that they have a personal timeline scored with significant moments and anecdotes in their journey with hip hop.

A few notable ones for me are discovering A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders album in a 99 cent bin at a pawn shop (!!!), arriving 3 hours before the doors opened at the Georgia Theatre to see Talib Kweli perform, and meeting Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC. 

Earlier this week, fellow hip hop aficionado Claudius Moore and I had the pleasure of adding another notable moment to each of our personal hip hop timelines:

We met Common!

I had been anxiously looking forward to this moment since Claudius messaged me weeks ago with the Eventbrite details asking if I wanted to go to Common’s book signing. My answer was, “Hell, YES!” (I mean, is that really a question?!)

We’re talking about the same person whose lyrics I studied on Like Water for Chocolate, whose song, “I Used to Love H.E.R.” made me a lover of storytelling hip hop songs and extended metaphors.

His lyrics were the score to my life as I crisscrossed a 767- acre campus during my periods of introspection in college (there were many) and are now as a 30-something discovering who I am and what it means to love myself.

In his memoir, he explores what it means to love himself,  his loved ones, his community, and God. We learn that he loves to drive the Pacific Coast Highway alone and freestyle to himself as an act of self-care and self-love:

When I’m freestyling, I feel very connected to God, to my life, and I try not to disrupt the flow by thinking about the next word. There’s no need for me to involve my thinking mind in this process because it’s wholly creative. It’s like surrendering myself to the moment, to the words that come out of my mouth. I trust in these moments that my heart and the creative part of my mind will guide me to a good place.

Reading the first few chapters of his book made me recall lyrics where he alluded to and directly referred to love. From “The Light’s” ‘It don’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine’ to  “Drivin’ Me Wild’s” ‘Love is not a mystery, it’s everything,” Common’s lyrics are the most poetic and purest to ever grace a track!

I don’t know why, but I expected to meet the persona of a performer— extroverted, outspoken, and larger than life. The first thing I noticed about Common, though, was his calm, gentle, and gracious energy. He and Claudius seemed to fall into conversation easily, and from a distance, they appeared to be two friends having an everyday conversation. When it was my turn to meet him, I was a ball of nervous and anxious energy, but there was no need because Common was very easy to talk to. It was nice to have the opportunity to put a real-life presence to the lyrics and to the person I’d only ever seen in music videos, movies, and commercials. The lyrics and the man behind the lyrics aligned perfectly.

I find that I connect to the words in his book as easily as I connect to his music. He doesn’t pretend to have the answers but rather speaks from a place of someone who’s just trying to figure it out like the rest of us. Learning and making mistakes, reflecting, and improving.  

Now, a couple of days removed from my most recent hip hop timeline event and slowly descending from my star-struck high, I’m looking forward to discussing more of Common’s work (the book included) in our upcoming podcast Hip Hop Elements. Claudius and I will discuss everything from turntablism, MCing, and breakdancing to our favorite producers, unforgettable lyrics, and iconic music videos and album covers.

If you’re a fan of Common, please check out his book Let Love Have the Last Word and join us on the podcast as we discuss hip hop, the significance of its culture, and the sounds and tracks that inspire us!