Common in concert

Common and me

“I‘ve been traveling around the world; there ain’t no ladies like [in] Chi-Town,” Common told the sold-out crowd of 1,400 at his House of Blues concert Saturday night. Be still my heart.

I managed to catch up with the rapper, actor, book author, fashion designer, and native Chicagoan before the show, which benefited his own Common Ground Foundation. “[I] stay in tune with the people from where I’m from,” he said. “The more you get, the more you give back.”

Giving back is something the “socially conscious” rapper knows a thing or two about (by the way, Common’s OK with that oft-used label; “It’s better than being called a gangsta rapper,” he says). Common Ground encourages urban youth across the country, including those in Chicago Public Schools, to pursue their dreams. Common’s mom was a CPS principal for many years, and Common was a CPS student; he even worked for a CPS program as his first job.  But school curriculum alone isn’t enough, he said: “We need to provide the resources to learn.” To that end, Common Ground partners with organizations including the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship to give kids a business-savvy edge; about 2,100 students are enrolled in the programs in Chicago alone.

In addition to ticket sales, a silent auction on Saturday raised $13,000, all of which benefited NFTE Chicago. The 90-minute set—during which the rapper performed hits including “Testify,” “Go,” and “Be”—also raised the temperature of plenty of female fans (hey, Common is one tall, buff drink of water). Also during the concert, Chicago’s Lincoln Dealers made a $30,000 donation, which was split by Common Ground and NFTE.

After giving shout-outs to artists he respects (from fellow Chicagoan Kanye West to Stevie Wonder to Erykah Badu) and those he feels are misunderstood by the media (Michael Vick, Lauren Hill, and, yep, West again), Common ended the show with another declaration: “I’m going to be the next president after Obama.” He practices what he preaches: dreaming big.

Read the Tribune’s concert review by Andy Downing.


Photography: Courtesy of Sarah Preston