Category Archives: GWHH Interviews

Common ‘Nobody’s Smiling’ x GWHH

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.

Photos by: Desmond Owusu

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.

Photo: Sgt. Tibs
Photo: Sgt. Tibs

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.

Photo: Desmond Owusu

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.

One of our first impressions of 'Nobody's Smiling' — more here.
One of our first impressions of ‘Nobody’s Smiling’ — more previews here.



GWHH Interview: Jarren Benton

I was posted in Cali for the last few weeks and had the chance to link up with Jarren Benton. For those of you who don’t know him, he was recently part of XXL’s 2014 Freshmen Class alongside Chicago notables like Vic Mensa, Lil Bibby, and Chance The Rapper. Beyond the cover, Jarren Benton has been making a name for himself since 2011. His track “Skitzo” hit 1.3 million views on YouTube and earned him the respect and attention from notable rappers like 2 Chainz, Dizzy Wright, and Jon Connor. At 32 years old, Jarren Benton is doing it bigger and better with each stride. Already making himself a lending contender in the game, he continues to bring us innovative material and show us exactly why we need to know his name.


First and foremost, congrats on being part of the cover of XXL 2014’s Freshmen Class. How does it feel to be nominated?

Thank you, I appreciate it. It was dope. I honestly didn’t expect to get it or even be nominated. I just remembering going hard and telling everyone to go and vote for me if they like my stuff. And when I got it I was like “Oh shit!” People came through and got me to where I am now.

(Laughs) Damn you seem pretty shocked.

Yeah I mean I wasn’t that shocked but still a great moment for me to soak in. It was dope just meeting everyone that was part of the cover and seeing how everyone is trying to make larger moves in getting our name and music out there. Definitely very memorable.

Of course and that nomination was definitely deserved. Congrats again! But I know besides the XXL cover you’ve been pretty busy on tour with Tech N9ne. How has that been?

It’s been great. Really cool to be around people who work hard and just having a good time doing what they love. We’ve been hopping around a lot but regardless we always try to give our fans a great show. Tech N9ne is great, I’ve been learning alot and just having a great time touring and doing my thing. Not going to lie, it has been a little bit tiring but it’s whatever, I’m still enjoying myself.


Besides the tour with Tech n9ne I know you and Hopsin have been collaborating. How was working with him? Can we expect more collaborations in the future?

Hopsin?! Oh he’s the homie. Honestly he’s a weird dude and I mean that in a good way. We are both weird dudes who do weird shit when it comes to making our music. Like when we made the track “Who’s There?” we were in our own space, alone, just doing us and only came out to discuss the track or whatever once we had things settled on our own. But I do hope we link up soon, we’re both busy with our own stuff so future projects will definitely be in the works.

So you guys basically only met when it came down to finalizing the last pieces?

Yeah basically. But that’s just how we do things. We’re weird. I’m a weird dude.

Define weird though.

I’m really particular about how and where I make my music. I got a ritual down and once I start something I need to just do it on my own and just kind of be in my own head sometimes. That’s just me.

I know your album “My Grandma’s Basement” is out. What was the inspiration behind that album and title? Was this the same process as all your other tracks? 

Literally what the title is (laughs). My ass was LITERALLY in my grandma’s basement. But this album was mainly inspired about the dark period in my life when I was living in my grandma’s basement. It was a rough time and I wanted to dedicate an album where I can look back on those times and just give my fans a more intimate look at my work.

I can definitely see how that album reflects some of your tougher times. But on the lighter note…that basement though…I mean was it decked out and shit?

(Laughs) I mean it was aight. But I mean come on now, it was my grandma’s basement. Things were grim but still, there were some decent times here and there.

What makes this album so different from everything else you’ve done?

This album has less “fun” elements. When I wrote tracks like “Skitzo”, I was already going through shit but I just wanted to make something fun because I had other things going on. I was more in the mindset that I wanted to produce and have fun and just drop whatever negative was surrounding me.

Yeah and I feel like that’s where solid music comes from. It just comes when you just produce what you like rather than following the masses. Do you think this progressive way of thinking has changed or grown in the music industry?

I feel like it has definitely grown. Music definitely has gotten more diverse and we see more and more artists being more progressive. We got dudes coming up from Europe, Canada, and etc. just giving us good shit to listen to and I’m happy to see that music especially hip hop is becoming more cutting edge. To be honest it’s about time! It just goes to show that music is evolving and it’s evolving with the times. Granted we still hear the same old tracks being overplayed on the radio but when you really sit down and listen to some of the stuff being played, things are starting to sound more different. It’s coming up slowly but still a good sign that things are moving beyond us.


R.I.P. Dr. Maya Angelou

Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:
Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.
Guy B. Johnson

As you know from the news this morning, Dr. Maya Angelou has passed away at age 86, but her impact and soul will continue to have a great influence on generations to come.

We had our own amazing experience with Dr. Maya Angelou three years ago in what is probably our all-time favorite interview. We were blessed to see first-hand her beautiful, kind soul speaking powerful truths; her mere presence radiated volumes for us in that room and to many more beyond. R.I.P. Dr. Maya Angelou.

GWHH sits down with Common & Dr. Maya Angelou (a Camovement by Cam Be)
(later picked up for a BET special on Maya Angelou)

The truth is we make a mistake when we think that generations can be separated. The truth is you need me, so that I have shoulders you can stand on. And you need me so that you have shoulders somebody else can stand on. We are One. And to separate us and decide that we’ll be polarized is ridiculous, it’s stupid, and it’s dangerous. I am responsible to that 5 year old, that 15 year old, that 30 year old, that 55, I am responsible to you. And I try to live my life as a responsible teacher… giver. Yes, I try to live my life that way, so that I will encourage Common to live his that way.

BONUS: 15 things you (probably) didn’t know about Maya Angelous (but should)

Featured Interview: Designer Gianni Mora

Okay, before I even start to get in depth, about midway through the interview, I mention Ian Connor. For clarification, I was not referring to him as a designer, I brought him up as a part of the question. Now moving straight into the review- Being able to sit down with Gianni Mora was good experience. For Gianni only being 17 and a Junior in High School, it was very refreshing to see someone so young create such good positive attention for something he created and has a passion for. Gianni spoke about really how things have been since he dropped his sweater “Future Love” in March, and just really all about how things have been moving forward.  The internet is such a powerful tool and Gianni utilizes it to the fullest while gaining more and more attention. There is much more to come from the young designer, more lines, more pieces, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some more “Hooding”.

Video was shot and edited by Mr. Jackson Spilsbury.




‘Mastermind’ prod. J. Manifest x GWHH

Recently GWHH had the chance to sit down with the man behind Rick Ross hit “Drug Dealers Dream” from his ‘Mastermind’ album. To say that J. Manifest is a new comer would be a lie, he has produced for the likes of Max B, Beanie Sigel, Slick Pulla, and Young Chris just to name a few. The producer has been rising through the ranks for years using his musical talents to create a future music mogul. We discussed his musical influences, artists, and his thought process when producing. If one doesn’t know of J. Manifest then GWHH is here to open your eyes to one of the best overall producers in the music industry.

* * * *

GWHH: What were some of your musical influences growing up?

J. Manifest:  Some of my influences were DJ Premier, Dr. Dre, and Timbaland just to name a few.

GWHH: How did you get started in the music game?

J. Manifest: Actually I started as a rapper in a group which didn’t last long, so eventually I went into producing invested in the equipment and started creating original beats.

GWHH: When do you create some of your music?

J. Manifest: Really middle of the night is the best time for me to create music. You’re blank and super tired so you’re going off straight emotion.

GWHH: Is there a certain sound that you strictly stick to?

J. Manifest: I create all type of beats from R&B, Pop, Dub Step, East Coast, West Coast beats there’s not anything I won’t do.

GWHH: How did you link up with Ross for the “Drug Dealers Dream”?

J. Manifest: I actually linked up with Gucci Pucci (CEO of Maybach Music Group) when he came out to North Carolina and he I would just send him beats all the time. Eventually, one day he hit me up saying Ross is going to use one of ya beats on the album.

Rick Ross “Drug Dealers Dream” (prod. J. Manifest)

GWHH: How long did it take for you to make “Drug Dealers Dream”?

J. Manifest:

It only took 8 minutes (laughs). I actually made the beat in 2011 and really didn’t like it that much, but Ross said he loved it so that’s all that matters. This goes out to everyone out there never underestimate what you create!

GWHH: What does the future hold for super producer J. Manifest?

J. Manifest: More on the production side working with more artist independent and main stream. Also, working with my company Legion of Musik Worldwide where we work with producers and artists helping them get there music out. I want to people to remember never sleep on you work the next one might be your best one. Follow me @JManifestNC.