Common is engaged…socially and politically, that is. Since his 1994 breakout homage to hip-hop, “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” the Chicago cutie has solidified his status as a battle-ready lyricist and conscious rapper. But Common recently told The New York Post that dating outspoken CNN correspondent and activist Angela Rye is making him even more of a man of the people.
“I feel like I have a lot more work to do . . . I feel like I have to be more intelligent with the work and strategize more,” the rapper told us at The Root 100 gala in New York City where Rye co-hosted and was honored.
“I have to listen more and go out and do more work. It is no time for sitting back, now. This is the time to stand up, more than anything.”
A cause close to his heart is his native Chicago, where Common said, “There is so much violence going on.”
Even before he started dating Rye, Common was doing more and giving back. Over the summer, the 45-year-old rapper-actor partnered with the nonprofit AdoptAClassroom.org and Burlington Stores to give Renaissance School of the Arts in Harlem $10,000 to help their teachers buy supplies like calculators and science kits.
“I always felt like one of my biggest duties and purposes is to hit the youth with something that’s inspiring, hit young people with something that can motivate them to be in their greatness,” Common said in an interview with The Associated Press after the event.
Common encouraged the students to keep their grades up and to persevere — in school and in life. He spoke about pushing through when setbacks occur, telling the students about not getting some acting roles he wanted and competing with other musicians to create a song for the film Selma. His song from the movie about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — “Glory” with John Legend — went on to win the Academy Award for best original song in 2015.
Born Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., Common attended the school event with his mother, Dr. Mahalia Hines, an educator and member of the Chicago Board of Education. She said she remembered spending her own money to buy essential materials for her classroom.
“A lot of the materials you needed to teach, we weren’t given the money to do it so you just went out and bought your own. If you had to have notebooks … you bought them because there were many lessons you definitely would have not been able to do without them,” she said.