Thursday, May 27, 2010

Common speaks at Stanford - GOOD music is in the building


Earlier this week, I heard that hip-hop artiste Common was coming to Stanford for a concert. Earlier yesterday, my friend Eli-Jacobs Fantauzzi posted a status on Facebook saying "off to Stanford to show HomeGrown... and then build with COMMON! :)" I was more excited about HomeGrown, the Hiplife.movie (documentary) than I was about Common. I missed the chance to watch the documentary but I could see my friend Eli if I met at the Common event. He wasn't performing, he had come to give a speech in one of Stanford's auditoriums. I decided not to go hear him speak because like I told Eli, I wasn't a big fan of Common, but after seeing the Boston Celtics with no chance of winning against the Orlando Magic, I abandoned the game and headed for Memorial Auditorium. I am thoroughly glad I went to hear Common because GOOD music was in the building.

I was late to the event so couldn't meet Eli to get that free ticket he had for me. I got to the venue and continued calling and texting him, but to no avail. That was when my saviour came by. He was a random dude I had met randomly at a party on Friday (I think so). He looked familiar but I couldn't remember how I met him. I was under the influence that Friday, May 22. I had had the most beers ever in my life, thanks to an end-of-season party for FC Palo Alto and some beer games. Flip Cup anyone? So this acquaintance gave me one of his tickets because it did seem I was in need of one and I entered the auditorium. Turns out the event was free and there were empty seats inside. I wasn't going to pay for nuffin but if I had just asked the ticket folks, I could have stayed outside for much shorter. And come on Stanford! Common spoke at Stanford and the cost was zilch, surely MemAud should have been packed to capacity.

I don't know much about Common's music. In fact, I can't even sing along to any of his songs right now unless I visit Youtube. But I do know he makes GOOD music. I know he is a conscious rapper and sings about social issues. That alone makes me love him. Hip-hop fans know that too and they all appreciate him for that. G.O.O.D stands for Getting Out Our Dreams. It's a music label founded by Kanye West, one of my favorite US rappers. John Legend (one of my favorite US singers) and Common were the first to sign to the label; their albums, Get Lifted and Be, respectively, and they won 3 and 4 Grammy nominations respectively. Common shared a story with us about how he prepared 3 acceptance speeches for the Grammy's and ended up winning none, even losing one to his G.O.O.D buddy, Kanye.

Lonnie Rashied Lynn, Jr. (born March 13, 1972), better known by his stage name Common (previously Common Sense), is an American rapper and actor. He talked a lot about finding his passion and path as a young man. His was rap/hip-hop. He talked about being great at what he did and how he had to work for it. It may sound cliche but a great formula for success is to find your passion, choose it and work hard at it. He mentioned that you must have belief in whatever you are doing as well. Common looks the well-read type, as he quoted Frederick Douglas, amongst others in his speech.

Common seemed to have strong spirituality, mentioning the Bible many times during his speech. At one point, he quoted a passage in James. It's funny how many artistes seem to claim God but are not really serious about their religion or spirituality. Common may even be more of a conscious rapper because of his spirituality. He also mentioned in his speech, how he felt he had a purpose. I loved it when he mentioned the story of Emmett Till. I first heard about Emmett through a Blitz da Ambassador song of the same name. An African American boy from Chicago, Emmett was murdered at the age of 14 in Money, Mississippi, by a white woman and her accomplices after she had been whistled at by Emmett. The murder of Emmett Till was noted as one of the leading events that motivated the American Civil Rights Movement. Common said he felt the story of Emmett called on him to be greater, almost like he had a calling after that.

One thing he said that struck me was when he mentioned that through hip-hop, he'd travelled many places. "Places like Africa and Cuba". It made me wonder, why couldn't he just mention the places in Africa he'd been to or just mention African countries? Africa and Cuba are not both countries, and they are not both continents. Africa and Cuba are two different jurisdictions and it doesn't do Africans justice to put them in a sentence like that. In fact, I was going to blog about how Common said this and how Black America (or African-Americans) romanticize Africa and help propagate the Africa is one country stereotype. It's almost like because most African-Americans can't trace their ancestry to specific places, they just bunch up Africa as one place. It seems Black people in the Diaspora cry Africa Unite more than Africans in Africa. Why is that? Yup, you said it. Time for another blog post.

Common came good though. All he had to do was quote Africa's South Africa's former president, Nelson Madiba Mandela. My friend, Tayo, reminded me that I had posted something about this on Facebook regarding these famous lines once said by Madiba. "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us." Click to read on. Seriously, when Timo Cruz started quoting that speech in that scene in Coach Carter, I started crying. Before then, I hadn't cried for 5 years. That speech is powerful. Turns out Mandela mentioned this during his inaugural speech in 1994. You can't say enough about Nelson Mandela. The man is G.O.O.D. So is Common.

Common also mentioned that sometimes we see obstacles in our lives, and we have to make them possibles. It was also interesting when he seemed to refer to Erykah Badu as someone who dimmed his light. They had a pretty public relationship and did a classic hip hop song together called Love Of My Life (An ode to Hip-Hop). That song is also the soundtrack to Brown Sugar, one of the best movies ever. Talking about movies, Common has been acting lately. He's had roles in many movies. I think he's pretty good. I watched his most recent movie, Just Wright, in which he had his first leading role, alongside Queen Latifah. I think he looked kinda weird in the movie, he looks like someone who does action type movies and not romantic comedy types, but maybe I was just paying too much attention to detail.

I am glad I went to hear Common speak, because, hey, he made me blog. That's 'cos he made me do some thinking. In his words, "Don't let anyone dim your light". Know your passion, follow it and make it your path. Let your path be unto others, let it pave the way and guide others, it is only then, that you will be great. Where there are obstacles, see possibles. Attheendodaday, you can just listen to Mandela say.


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightening about shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to manifest the Glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some; it’s in all, everyone. And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."


Oh, before I go, Common has a book out. Details coming soon. Check out his Facebook page
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