There’s nothing sweet about Common. Though he’s penned a number of love songs and has become sort of a poster boy for conscious rap in the last decade, the Chigaco lyricist had a penchant for dropping gratuitously brutal lines in the first half of his career. Com is apparently channeling his old self on his ninth album, The Dreamer, The Believer—particularly on the LP’s most recent leak, “Sweet.” “You come around my crib, you get your shit took,” Com says at the tail end of the song. Com’s venomous post-song rant may not fit his current image, but it actually pales in comparison to some of his old bars. He once called Craig Mack ugly and poked fun at American Olympic diver Greg Louganis for hitting his head on a diving board. Com spoke to XXLMag.com about the repercussions of his foulest lines.—Carl Chery @cchery
XXLMag.com: When I heard “Sweet” I though to myself, “I haven’t heard Common talk shit like that since One Day It’ll All Make Sense.” What made you bring that old Common back?
Common: It’s funny you say the old Common, ‘cause one of my boys said, “Man, you remind me of when you was at FAMU [Florida A&M University] when he heard that song. He was like, “I’ve been waiting for that song for 20 years from you. I think what I did was just not put that responsibility of saying, “Man, OK, just because I went to the White House, I can’t express that side of me. Or just because I’m doing this brand partnership and because I am speaking to the kids and say, “Do something right,” that still don’t mean I ain’t an adult that feel like, “Nigga, get yo’ hoe ass out of here,” or I’ma fight when I need to fight. I had to make that decision for myself and part of it was just me being more comfortable in my skin and being like, “I’m a man, I ain’t gotta sit around and be worried about what everybody is gon think. I just gotta be who I am, what I am and say what I feel and if that shit come out not the right thing, it’s not the right thing sometimes. But it’s right because it’s what I’m feeling and it’s true to the art and it’s music.
I was reading the book and remember this part where you speak about being a conscious rapper and then say, “Don’t y’all hear me say bitch on this song?” You also had some foul lines. I remember on “Resurrection” you said, “skills uglier than Craig Mack in ya ear, I’m the flavor.” Did you ever hear anything from Craig Mack?
You know what, I saw him and he ain’t really give me too much beef about that. It was almost that unspoken thing. He ain’t come out and say, “Yo, man, why you say that,” or whatever. It was almost just like, “Man, I said it. If you mad, say something now. If not, it ain’t gon matter later.” But I will tell you when I saw Mack 10 and them, I was with my guys. We was opening this show. We was doing a show at the time with OutKast, we was in Atlanta. Mack 10 and his guys was in the show. And them dudes assumed just cause I was hip-hop, rapping about what I rapped about that it wasn’t no weight with me. They got past us and hollered, “West Side.” We was like, “Nigga, we from the South Side. What the fuck that mean?” We basically looked [at] ‘em eye to eye like, “What’s up? If you wanna do something we right here.” And it wasn’t nothing that really jumped off. I stood my ground as a man. He stood his ground as a man. That happens sometimes.
You also had the line, “Take a dive like Greg Louganis and his bitch ass.” He hit his head on the diving board. What made you come up with that line?
I mean, he was soft. He was gay. [Laughs] At that time, I was just saying what was on my mind. I had a different way of thinking then in a way. I’m still gon’ say what’s on my mind, but you know, now whatever that person doing, that’s what they do. You can hear on “Sweet” I’m like, “You soft ass muthafuckas, hoe ass niggas.” I’m just gon let it out, if I gotta let it out.
On “Food for Funk” you said, “I got my mind made up like Foxy Brown’s face.” She ever say anything about that?
Nah, she ain’t never said nothing, man. Foxy ain’t never…. Nah, she ain’t say nothing, man. People probably heard, told her, but by the time I saw her, it was all love. It was a different place in life where we was at.