It’s only the beginning of 2015 and it’s already a banner year for the accomplished multi-hyphenate artist known as Common, with his song “Glory,” co-written with John Legend for the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma, in which he also stars, winning an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Since the very beginning of his music career out of Chicago nearly two decades ago, his compositions have always been of the intellectual, uplifting ilk and his discography has continually garnered critical acclaim. But there is no doubt that his elevated brand of hip-hop has not been exposed to more eyes than in the past few months during the song’s whirlwind award show tour. “This is how it’s supposed to happen, the way it was supposed to happen, and the time it was supposed to happen,” Common says knowingly.
In an age when immediate success and fame is the objective, it’s a refreshing viewpoint. When most audiences have been put off by the typical musician-transitioning-into-actor narrative, because of the failures that will go nameless, Common has pulled it off dexterously, starting with an enjoyable turn in Guy Richie’s Smokin’ Aces and progressing into indie dramas like LUV and Ryan Piers Williams’s X/Y. In his latest project, Run All Night, he goes head to head with legendary badass Liam Neeson. But it was when Selma director Ava DuVernay approached him to write her movie’s theme song that his two worlds collided in perfect harmony.
Did you ever see this kind of acclaim for “Glory” coming? What does the song’s admiration mean to you?
It means everything to me. Because it really is what I’m about and what I truly want to dedicate myself to. It’s uplifting and inspiring and bringing people together. This song is part of a movie that is a extension and expression of the civil rights movement and it’s an honor to be a part of it.
Oprah was a producer on the film and you’ve been working with her to spread the message. What has it been like being around her and working with her?
It’s an inspiration. You feel like, “Man, I need to really appreciate this time that I get to spend with one of the greatest human beings to walk this earth.” You know it’s hard for women in society, you know they have obstacles put before them and then a black woman, to reach the level she’s reached, you’ve got to understand what type of human being she has to be. She’s just an incredible human being and I like trying to learn from her presence.
During this awards circuit you’ve been spending a bit of time with your co-writer John Legend’s wife, Chrissy Teigen, what’s it like hitting a party with her?
I love her, she’s just got a real good energy. She loves definitely having fun, but at the same token, you can just tell her and John have this real incredible bond and they support each other 110 percent. She is just so happy for him, for us. It was a joy to see her that happy.
What has been your style mantra during the past few months? Did you and John collaborate on what you would wear for each other the performances of “Glory”?
We both have our own voice when it comes to style. We have our own theme that we know we want to follow with when we perform the song. In how we dress, we definitely want to present ourselves in a smart and sharp and respectful and elegant fashion. So that’s one of the ideas of how we present ourselves when we’re representing Selma. Ultimately, we work with talented people who could bring quality clothing and quality fashion designers to us, and then we just choose what fits the moment.
What designers did you work with on the looks?
This season I’ve been working with Prada and Calvin Klein. They’ve been really consistent. I’ve been wearing a lot of their suits. We also ventured with Tim Coppens and Givenchy. Givenchy sent me a couple things. So I have a spectrum but I have to say, Prada and Calvin Klein really have been consistently been dressing me well for this season.
You’re also helping some young designers out there now through the Tanqueray Trunk Show, which is connecting young designers to upcoming brands like Public School.
It was a lot of fun and an opportunity for me to do what I really love to do, which is to inspire people but for the most part, to let the art be the inspiration. I like to be able to give people that access, that opportunity to just to hear from me and other guys out there like Public School, who are doing what they love and have a fresh take on fashion. I’m still on my journey, but I’ve got some things that I like to share and I’m glad that the trunk show is part of that procedure.
Are you and John Legend going to do some more collaborating?
We definitely have some plans to do some more co-creating. I believe that we’ll do a project at some point, but I don’t know what it will be. We don’t know if it will be for a film or if it’ll be an EP, but we are going to do more because we really enjoy working together. This is a good… it’s a great — it’s a connection. We both have a respect for the art, respect for the culture, and it’s just a blessing.
Was there anybody you met at the awards show you were especially excited about?
Edward Norton is an actor I really love. His final scene in Birdman was amazing; I’m a big fan of his work. Birdman is a movie that I loved; the acting, the directing, and the cinematography was incredible.
I imagine you liked that score as well.
I’m glad you brought that up! The score was incredible.
I feel like you could lay a sick rap on top of that soundtrack.
Now that you mention it, I should find that guy. I think we could make some really fun music together.