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Catching Up With Common

Caught in passing at a promo gig this weekend, the recent Oscar winner talks future career moves and Aahh! Fest 2015.

Common at Aahh! Fest in 2014, where, by the way, he’ll return in 2015.   Photo: Travas Machel

To say Common has been busy would be an understatement. Since the last time we talked, the South Side native has launched one of the best festivals in Chicago and spent a near residency-length stay in the spotlight (you may have heard about his Oscar and Golden Globe wins for “Glory” from Selma). Caught in passing at a Tanqueray trunk show for young entrepreneurs where he performed this weekend, hip-hop’s foremost renaissance man shared plans for the future, including—wait for it—another Aahh! Fest in Chicago. An edited transcript follows.

How does this trunk show fit into your work as an artist and activist?

Well, I definitely want to be a mentor. As a musician, you can mentor, and this whole event is about mentorship. Growing up, I used to listen to KRS-One, and he was one of the people that I would learn things from, in his music. In music you can inspire people, you can guide them to things, you can be an example of what it is to achieve or to have failure.

You spent a lot of time involved with Chicago in 2014, with your last album and AAHH! Fest, whereas the first part of 2015 has been more Hollywood. What’s next?

I’ve been doing a lot of speaking engagements. We recently had the Common Ground Foundation Gala, where we raised money for my foundation, which is Chicago-based, for the youth. I’ve got some films that I’m gonna do, I have some music that I’m creating. And we are going to have an AAHH! Fest this year too.

Are you going to do anything differently this year?

Well, we’re hoping to grow, but if we can capture the spirit of last year and allow it to grow then that would be incredible. ’Cause that was like—that was one of the best events I’ve been to in Chicago. I loved it, we loved it, even the performers loved it.

Coming off the Oscar and Golden Globe wins, how will you use your new reach?

For now, it gives me more opportunities to speak about things that I represent [and] believe in. I have more opportunities to connect with people that can make moves to help change things. That’s how I want to do it—utilize the platform as an activist. As an artist, I definitely want to keep making art that means something, whether it’s doing films, short films, making music for films, doing theater—I want to do that, too—or writing. And up next is just some movies that I’ll act in.

Any specifics you can talk about?

Well, there’s Hunter Killer, that was announced. It’s with Gerard Butler and Billy Bob Thornton. The director, Martin Campbell, directed Casino Royale. There are other projects on the table. I’ve just got to wait to say anything until they’re solidified.

Has all the time in the spotlight been draining?

Nah, that’s the beauty of what my career has been. It’s been a thing that’s evolved. It’s been a climb. Because I didn’t come out and just get big notoriety, I’ve been able to appreciate each moment, and I’m grateful for each moment. I know what it is when people don’t know you, so I don’t feel like, “Okay, people know me now, I should treat them differently.” This evolution helped me to appreciate the victories and respect the losses and keep moving forward, staying humble and focused in all of it.

You’re a known problem-solver. What’s next on your plate?

Making sure that my daughter, first of all, chooses the right college that she wants to go. And she’s having a nice spring break event that I’ve got to make sure is chaperoned correctly. That’s real shit.

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