Common, who released his Nobody’s Smiling album this year, is also celebrating the 20-year anniversary of his Resurrection album in October. But, he says, that wasn’t a thought he had while crafting his latest effort.
“Going into this album what was on our minds was making something fresh-sounding,” Common says in an interview with Billboard. “So it wasn’t like we were dwelling on Resurrection or even thinking about it. Once this year came around and they started talking about ’94 hip-hop and Resurrection, it fell into place organically. But this is a new sound for a Common album. I’m not trying to relate everything back to what we did because I’m a person that believes in living in the present. People don’t remember, so I never try to live off of what I’ve done in the past.”
Common’s Nobody’s Smiling may analyze the streets, but he says he always tries to keep a duality between “the gutter shit” and “the other shit” in his arsenal.
“I think the artist that is maybe able to relate to the gutter shit, and speak about the gutter shit, but understands the other shit and maybe understands the other shit too, is actually to me not only the most celebrated, but most valued artist,” he says. “Think about Tupac. He was an actor; and a real dude. He had been through some stuff. He was a revolutionary but he also was a dude that was like, ‘Yo, I’ll beat your ass too.’ There’s something very powerful about being able to relate to the street, but still be able to do some high art.”
Common says he’s tried to find that balance between his work in Rap and his work as an actor, focusing on each part of life separately. For Nobody’s Smiling, the emcee says he avoided taking acting jobs, allowing him to focus on his rhymes.
Nobody’s Smiling also features “Rewind That,” a song that references Common’s bond with J Dilla.
“J Dilla was so true to the music that he didn’t care if it was like, Jay-Z,” he says. “If he wanna do beats for you, he will. If he don’t, he don’t. He would just make music constantly. He actually was the first person I saw that had that combination of artsy and ghetto. Not artsy where you’re like, trying to be artsy. But he was sampling Jazz music, then going to a strip club. He come in with a chain on to pick me up in an Escalade, but is bumping Daft Punk. He was the merging of two worlds.”