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On His Latest Album, Common's Political Commentary Gets Personal04:48

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"Though I know other things exist, you know, like beautiful things that have happened to us and beautiful things we've created," Common says of witnessing black death in the news. "I just looked at that and felt the pain of it." (Courtesy of the artist)closemore
"Though I know other things exist, you know, like beautiful things that have happened to us and beautiful things we've created," Common says of witnessing black death in the news. "I just looked at that and felt the pain of it." (Courtesy of the artist)

Since his first album in 1992, Common — then known as Common Sense — has championed hip-hop as a vehicle for social commentary. His latest album, Black America Again, continues that legacy and explores the joys and tragedies of black life in the United States.

On the album's title track, "Black America Again," Stevie Wonder sings the refrain, "We are rewriting the black American story." Common says those words are "a call to action, humanizing our story and showing the depth of who we are. That's the rewriting of the black American story."

Some of the inspiration for the project came when Common watched the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton. The film included tape of the police beating of Rodney King in 1991. "It made me think of Eric Garner and ... the other people who had died at the hands of police officers," Common says. "Though I know other things exist, you know, like beautiful things that have happened to us and beautiful things we've created — I just looked at that and felt the pain of it."

In addition to weighing in on national concerns, Black America Again addresses some personal questions. The track "Home," Common says, was his way of asking, "What do I want to accomplish before I leave this Earth?" — which he hopes will amount to more than awards and record sales. "I want my life to be fulfilled in a way where people will say, 'This dude inspired people. He was a good father. He just was a nice person.'"

Common shared these and other thoughts with Morning Edition. Hear the full story at the audio link.

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