Written by | Ray Cornelius
Morehouse College kicked off their homecoming week Monday afternoon with an intimate student mixer featuring Grammy winning-hip hop superstar Common. The Oscar winning-actor and activist is in Atlanta promoting his new CD, “Black America Again” which drops on November 4. He stopped by to debut the project and premiere his short film of the same name. Following the screening was a chat with Dr. Stephane Dunn, Director of Morehouse College’s Cinema, Television & Emerging Media Studies Program. Attendees were also encouraged to wear all black and or get a “Black America Again” T-shirt for the event.
“Black America Again” is Common’s 11th album and in my opinion his most prolific one to date. I liken it to Janet Jackson‘s “Rhythm Nation” or Marvin Gaye‘s “What’s Going On” because it speaks to all of the “isms” plaguing Black people living in America. It’s a social statement piece that Common explained was inspired by the Broadway musical “Hamilton” as well as the death of Sandra Bland and the countless other African American men and women who have died at the hands of White police officers.
“Black America Again” features a number of collaborations including “Joy & Peace” with Bilal, “Love Star” with Marsha Ambrosius, “Rain” with John Legend, “The Day Women Took Over” with rising star BJ the Chicago Kid, “Little Chicago Boy” with Tasha Cobbs and of course, the titled track, “Black America Again” with the legendary Stevie Wonder. The album also features a number of jazz artists including Esperanza Spalding, Roy Hargrove and Robert Glasper, who serves as one of the album’s producers.
In addition to the album, Common has released a companion film that really brings to life the music and its poetic lyrics. The 20-minute short is reminiscent of Gordon Parks’ classic black and white photos and features these beautifully shot images of everyday African-Americans “experiencing” Black life. There are also references to Freddie Gray as well as traditional Yoruba dance numbers which pays homage to the ancestors. The album’s cover art and photos associated with it were created especially for the project by Jamaican artist Lorna Simpson. Common also called on other friends in the industry to shoot portions of the film including famed directors Kasi Lemmons, Ava DuVernay and Gina Prince-Bythewood.
During the Q&A session, Common mentioned that his entire purpose is simply to do God’s will and that the single “Home” featuring Bilal was divinely inspired. He felt it was what God wanted him to say at the time and makes several references to scriptures and other biblical rhetoric. He also said that when he’s experiencing writers block he will often read the works of other literary figures like James Baldwin or Zora Neal Hurston. When asked what he felt about today’s hip hop artists he said that he enjoys the music of Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper and J. Cole and prefers music that speaks to him or makes him feel something. I have a feeling everyone is going to feel somethin too when they listen to “Black America Again.”
See more images from the mixer below:
“Black America Again” features the work of Lorna Simpson
Big K.R.I.T holding up a “Black America Again” T-Shirt
Dr. Stephane Dunn served as today’s moderator
Common was inspired by the musical “Hamilton” and the death of Sandra Bland
The album features a number of collabs including Bilal, John Legend and more
Common is a Grammy and Oscar winning rapper, actor and activist
Common greeting Big K.R.I.T.
Common receiving a Morehouse hoodie during the post reception
Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com