Leave it to Common to claim he's "not a big party guy" while sitting amidst hundreds of vodka-swilling Chicagoans. Back in his hometown for an event at the temporary Stoli Hotel—a swank, cleavage-heavy space set up in a warehouse on Ashland Avenue—Common insisted his typical visits home are a little more low-key. Or, at least, he intends them to be.
"When you're an artist and people know who you are, you've gotta learn to deal with people, but at the same time, you know, enjoy yourself and take your space," he said while fighting for some space of his own and greeting old friends in the hotel's VIP "suite." "But you've got to always respect the fans."
Common's never been an artist lacking in respect, and he's received it back in spades, even if his album sales haven't always shown it. That certainly changed with the release of 2005's Be, which garnered four Grammy nominations, including Best Rap Album. His next album, Finding Forever, took things a step further, debuting at #1 on the Billboard Top 100. "As much as I do music for the people, it's still good to be rewarded for it in that way too," he said. "Everybody wants the championship ring, wants to achieve great things and get accolades."
He can only hope he gets as much love for his acting. Since scoring his first major feature film role in last year's "Smokin' Aces," Common's been a busy guy on-screen. "It's something that I'm pursuing, that I really do love. I love it like I do music. It's just another way for me to express myself as an artist." Fans of the bald, bearded thespian can catch him in "American Gangster"; Common plays Turner Lucas, the brother of the titular drug king, Frank (Denzel Washington). "That was an incredible experience," he said. "That's like sitting there with one of the gurus of acting, one of the kings…It was humbling."
Speaking of legends, Common confirmed the rumors of him forming a group with rapper Q-Tip (of A Tribe Called Quest) called The Standard. "Q-Tip is one of my inspirations in music; he's one of the greats to me. So for me to be able to do something with him, it's like a great honor. We really don't have a time set for it, we're just gonna start working on it. I approach it like we're jazz musicians; we're just gonna make some music and make it from the heart and give it to the people."
This means the next time he swings through these parts, we might actually get a performance out of it. All the better if it involves some free vodka, too.