A legend and definitely not a stranger to the city of Chicago or to Gowhere Hip Hop, Common has been making the city buzz for the last several months. With his announcement of a fall season music festival, a Chicago job initiative with Rhymefest, and a new album release, Common’s list of endeavors is longer than ever. However, nothing excited me more than the announcement of his tenth album, Nobody’s Smiling, set to drop July 22nd. With his album hype and a special invite to attend “Find Your Fortune”, Common’s exclusive listening party, I couldn’t say no to peeping his new work and chatting with Common as he circled back to the Windy City.
Video Provided by Miller Fortune
Set at Untitled, the private event was sponsored by Miller Fortune and Complex. Walking in, videos of the event’s theme lit the room with the caption “Fortune Comes to Those Who Seek It”, a true testament as the space filled with the who’s who and creative tastemakers of Chitown. From the street-wear gurus, Chicago rappers, to the hottest beat makers, everyone posted up with their finest gear in support of this legendary artist. Notable guests spotted among the crowd were Alex Wiley of Closed Sessions, a rising artist in the Chicago music scene and heavy weight rapper and producer, Rhymefest, were just a few who vibed out to this special gathering.
As the night continued with refreshments and guests pouring into the dance floor, the highlight and anticipation for the album soon began. Everyone gathered around the stage and screens as Common and Rhymefest took the stage to preview the album, my shortness (5’2 shorty but 5’4 with my high ponytail though) came through as I was lucky to be whispers away from Common as he discussed his new album. Previewing the album, track for track with the guests, the DJ spun songs from the album, the crowd bopped their heads in unison and cheered as Common started spitting few verses from each song. The energy grew fast as guests cheered and raised their bottles of Miller Fortune in the air, saluting Common on yet another successful record.
By the end of the event, I had the opportunity to sit down with Common. Situated in a warm, cozy interviewing room upstairs from Untitled, I was excited to speak more in depth about his new album and how Chicago continues to be driving force behind his music and life’s work as an activist.
GWHH: This album is your tenth album and after listening to a few tracks I can definitely hear the strong Chicago ties and influences. Are there any specific events or people in Chicago that influenced you in this album?
Common: For this album, I really tuned in to my own experiences living in Chicago and really focused on some of the music and people that continues to grow in the city. I feel like also just being an activist in general has influenced my work on this project. All the things I’ve saw as a child or learned my mother growing up and even the things I’m still seeing today is molding my music.
GWHH: What I’m particularly fascinated with are the Chicago artists featured. We have a large mixture of sounds from Lil Bibby, King Louie, Drizzy, etc. who are giving this album some of its greatest moments. What can you say about the mixture of sounds (classic hip hop and newer styles hip hop) being produced by yourself and others on this album?
Common: That was definitely one of the intents of this album. Its new energy and new hunger. Not only did I want to incorporate the elements of hip hop that I love and grew up on, I also wanted to showcase Chicago artists who are living, creating, and making musical changes in the city. Not only can I bring my own passion for hip hop onto the tracks but these artists as well, are showcasing how music is progressing and things are changing. This event by Complex and Miller Fortune is helping those artists showcase what it is to be a Chicago artist and just where the direction of music may be going towards. Here we can experience the music for all its elements and absorb it organically.
GWHH: Even though Chicago has always been a huge factor in your work, I know you mentioned that you titled this album, “Nobody’s Smiling” because of the some things you’ve seen and experienced in Chicago. Can you elaborate a little more on the title and just overall thought process when creating this project?
Common: Of course. I approached this record without fear. This album is definitely about me giving back to my city and the hip hop culture in which I love and grew up in. But it’s also about me shedding light to the violence that occurs in Chicago every day. I see it and I want it known that this happening every day to cities like ours. The title is a call to action, a clear indicator that events like these are happening and we need to start making a difference.
And you know what? I truly believe we can make a difference if you choose to follow whatever it is that we want in our lives.
GWHH: As an artist and activist, I know you continuously challenge and set goals for yourself. What goals do you hope to accomplish in both fields in the next 5 years?
Common: I say with the resources and plans I have developing right now I hope I can better Chicago and bring about more change for people. Whether its educating people on the situations that are occurring every day through music or my social efforts, I feel that small push regardless of which outlet can inspire people to speak and live without fear. I am definitely trying though, definitely pushing to try and trying every day to make these changes permanent in the long run. I see it and I can feel things are moving towards the right direction.
As the interview came to a close and I thanked him for his inspiring words, I joined the rest of the party as it continued its way downstairs. With guests still enjoying the night, posing for photographers, swaying their bottles with drinks at hand, and skimming the pages of the latest Complex magazine, snippets of Common’s new album and interview spoke greatly as I scanned the room full of Chicago natives. Living in the city surrounded by both fortune and chaos, it was a nice reminder that change can definitely be made and cultivate based on our efforts. Whether its through what we produce musically or mentally, it’s a very clear reminder that with a little bit of effort and awareness we can make strides for change.
With only a few weeks till his album drop, I am excited for everything that is to come with Common and hope this lasting feeling of positivity continues to carry on into the summertime Chi. Thank you Miller Fortune and Complex for a dope evening and a great start to my summer.