In the latest installment of Complex TV’s Magnum Opus, Chicago, Illinois rapper Common offered some insight into the creation of his Like Water For Chocolate record, “The Light.” Common began his breakdown of the J Dilla-produced record by speaking on his move from Chicago to New York City and how the move offered “a new chapter and new creativity.”
“I had moved from Chicago to New York,” Common said. “I was moving off the label that I was on previously. And I had moved to MCA. Coming to New York was like an opening for a new chapter and new creativity. And being exposed to new things. So, that’s when—Like Water For Chocolate it began with that. Just that move. I got introduced to Fela Kuti his music through Black Thought. I would say three years before I started making Like Water For Chocolate. Around ’96.”
Common recalled hearing “The Light” while in the car with J Dilla and Frank Nitt as they listened to Dilla’s beat tapes. He says that upon hearing the song they made a U-turn and went back to the studio to work on the record.
The Chicago lyricist also addressed the Bobby Caldwell “Open Your Eyes” sample featured on the song.
“When I heard ‘The Light’ I was like ‘What is that? Man, this is outta this world great,’” he said. “He ended up hooking that beat up and putting new drums to it. And hooking that sample up. And the actual chorus wasn’t in there yet. Funny part about it I never knew he [Bobby Caldwell] was white until we sampled him. I was like ‘Wow, this dude got so much soul.’ Soul is colorless…It’s no way I felt like I could mess that beat up. It was one of those songs that when you really just pouring out your heart. And just coming from your soul and not thinking too much. I just had to just like let the truth come out. Let the creativity flow on it.”
As Common’s rumored girlfriend around the time “The Light” was written, Common later spoke on his relationship with Dallas, Texas songstress Erykah Badu. He recalled the two being friends initially and their relationship later growing into something more.
Badu also offered her thoughts on the relationship between the two.
“At that time I just wanted to grow and be a better man,” Common said. “My outlook on love was just man, I just was open to it. Erykah was somebody that was my friend. That love is like ‘Okay, this is unconditional love in a way because we just friends.’ That love was just pure. It just grew into that. It wasn’t—That wasn’t the motive from the beginning. So, I guess my view on love was more just being true to it and being unafraid.”
“We just started out as really good friends genuinely,” Badu added. “Supportive. We could talk to each other about anything. I think we just kinda fell in love. We were young and creative. And we just matched very well. We’re both double Pisces. Pisces moon and sun.”
In addition to Common and Erykah Badu, other artists featured in the latest Magnum Opus episode include singer Bobby Caldwell, The Roots’ James Poyser, and Detroit, Michigan musician Frank Nitt.