Chicago native Common tells us why he's still stunned by his Oscar win and what he wants young people to know.
Fresh from his Oscar win for Best Original Song with Selma’s “Glory” (which he shares with John Legend), hip-hop paragon Common returned to his hometown over the weekend to perform at the Tanqueray Trunk Show, one of six events around the country meant to promote entrepreneurship and attended by notable artists and industry insiders.
Before the South Side native closed out the private event with a spirited set of classic cuts including “Go,” “The People,” and “So Far to Go”—at one point pausing to arrange a freestyle ode about a lucky concertgoer he pulled onstage—we spoke with the former Michigan Avenue cover star about how he’s helping the next generation of entrepreneurs find their purpose.
We love your Michigan Avenue cover from a few years ago. COMMON: Man, that was fun. I loved that. Thank you.
In the interview, you explicitly said, “I want Oscars,” and that dream came true. Have you gotten over that realization, or is it still sinking in? C: It’s still something I don’t think I’ve really grabbed onto yet. Even when I see the Oscar, I’m like, “Wait, that’s my Academy Award.” It’s the greatest achievement you can get as an artist because it’s voted by the artists and it’s celebrated with art from all types: costume artists, makeup artists, composers, directors, writers, actors, musicians. It’s the greatest achievement that I’ve had as an artist.
You were just in town for the Common Ground Foundation gala. Is it rewarding knowing that you could be mentoring a future Common, or a future Oscar winner? C: One of the most invigorating things for me is to know that I can utilize this platform to inspire and to help set a mark for people coming up after me for the younger people to see—because I know that’s what helped motivate me, when I saw people achieve that were like me, or from where I was from. I was like “Wait, I can do it.” It’s a blessing to be able to give back in that way and say, “You can achieve no matter where you come from.” You can do anything you choose to do—it might be something in the medical field, it might be something as a visual artist…but it’s still striving for greatness. I’m very grateful to be an example.
The Tanqueray Trunk Show is all about making your own path as an entrepreneur. What advice would you give to someone aspiring to realize his or her dreams? C: You have to find what your purpose is. When you find what your purpose is, you’ve got to believe in that purpose wholeheartedly with everything you’ve got—and know that when you really do believe in it, that you will face challenges and that everything happens in divine time. I’m 23 years in the music industry, and I received the Oscar 23 years later as a hip-hop artist. It’s a whole new life and a new time. You stick to what you believe in and continue to keep creating and stay passionate and stay open and humble and growing.