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Common on Chicago’s violence, education and ‘drill music’

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Common continues to serve as an inspiring voice in hip-hop while also working diligently in the community.

Common and his Common Ground Foundation recently teamed up with Magic Johnson and his Bridgescape Academy. Located in the heart of Chicago’s inner city, the school helps to give high school dropouts a second chance.

During a recent press conference at Bridgescape Academy, Common spoke with rolling out about Chicago’s violence, education and the city’s new “drill music” movement which is popularized by artists such as Chief Keef, Lil Reese, Sasha Go Hard and others.

Why was it important for you to get involved with Magic Johnson and the Bridgescape Academy?

It’s really about reaching out to our communities.  As Magic [Johnson] said, black and brown people don’t always get certain opportunities. They may have dropped out of school and this program can really get them back on the path and show them the support and nurturing that they need.  

Chicago’s violence continues to make headlines. Why are kids being led down the wrong path at an early age?

Obviously, certain things start at home. Sometimes they just don’t have that proper nurturing at home. If you’re going to school and not feeling like you’re really accomplishing what you want, you may become deterred.  And seeing people getting money  and doing things the illegal way, you can get sucked into that. When that is what you are surrounded by and you don’t see the sun, you see clouds. You need to see some sun; you need to see the light.  I think that programs, like what we are doing now with the Common Ground Foundation, and programs that have existed before us are avenues to getting our kids on the right path. Avenues to getting them to reach their goals and doing something positive in their lives. 

When considering Chicago’s new hip-hop movement, known as “drill music,” it’s more violent than what previously occurred with Chicago hip-hop. What are your thoughts on the drill music scene?

Well first off, I feel through music and art people should be able to express what they feel. I would never knock the music young people are doing because that’s their expression. Hip-hop is meant for us to express ourselves. I do feel by example and by support we can start encouraging artists to do different types of music, to be a leader. If everybody’s doing it, then maybe do something different. You can stand out. I believe that people should be able to express themselves the way they do. I grew up listening to N.W.A and Rakim, but I’m not out here just trying to shoot somebody just because I listened to N.W.A. If you really know who you are, you won’t let a song stir you away from your ultimate goal.

You were able to reach a goal by attending college after high school. Why was it important for you to attend college before pursuing a career in music?

I always dreamed big and believed I would achieve big.  My goal was never to just finish high school. I was a business administration major at Florida A&M University.  They had a great business program. I was working on that and also had a dream to be a MC. I already was a MC and I wanted to be a hip-hop artist. I continued to pursue both dreams and they kind of met together. At a certain point,  I decided to pursue my rap career. I needed the business acumen that I developed in college to start becoming a better businessman.