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He’s come a long way from Common Sense.

Chicago native son Common has released 10 studio albums, won a Grammy, and he’s got a starring role in Selma, the film about Martin Luther King Jr., and the historic 1965 voting rights marches. Selma has become one of the most acclaimed films of the year, a major success for Common, who is now one of hip-hop’s elder statesmen. The guy who started his career in the early ’90s as a wisecracking motormouth from the South Side is now the thoughtful poet and Renaissance man of hip-hop’s Generation X, but he doesn’t bow to the rap generation divide that’s become the topic of so much conversation. Common believes in the youth being who they are, and he’s all about giving them room to breathe.

“Hip-hop evolves and constantly grows. And, it’s gonna change. It’s moving where the youth are moving. The youth lead hip-hop in many ways, but then again — you still have artists like myself that have been around in hip-hop a long time, putting out fresh music and new sounds,” Common says.

“I think I provide a different aspect,” he explains. “I did an album called Nobody’s Smiling and I connected with artists like Lil Herb from Chicago and an artist named Dreezy. I brought some of the younger artists who had their perspective and I offered a different perspective. But, I don’t overlook the fact that I was them at one point. Meaning, I come from the same place that they come from. I’m not the person or the artist that’s gonna sit there and judge what they do. I just write from a perspective of always giving a voice to the people in what I do.”

Stereo Williams

Todd "Stereo" Williams, entertainment writer based in New York City. He co-founded Thirty 2 Oh 1 Productions, an indie film company.