Common is one of rap's greatest Renaissance men. Known to the rap world as one of Chicago's most poetic MCs, the 44-year-old spitter has managed to climb to the top of the game and become known by many more titles -- author, actor and activist among them

Born Lonnie Lynn Jr., Common broke into acting with the 2006 film Smokin' Aces. From there, he starred in a slew of big budget movies of all genres; everything from action (American Gangster and Wanted) to kid's flicks and romantic comedies (Happy Feet 2 and Just Wright). Common's face began to pop up in films so much that most growing up in the new millennium now associate him with the big screen more than the studio. However, in 2015, the rapper received one of his biggest honors to date on the music tip. He and John Legend were awarded Emmys and Academy Awards for the song "Glory" from the major motion picture Selma. By taking home such coveted hardware, Common joined the short list of rappers to have ever won Oscars.

But don't think he's gone Hollywood on the hip-hop world just yet. Common is still an MC at heart. His last album, 2014's Nobody's Smiling, was a battle cry on behalf of his hometown of Chicago. The message of the LP was received loud and clear, debuting at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and hailed by critics as one of Common's best projects in recent years. Now, with 2016 being election year, Common Sense is thinking bigger.

His return to music comes with the new song, "Black America Again," which he dropped in September followed by a powerful music video featuring Stevie Wonder. The bold track delivers reminders of how Black people are systemically disadvantaged. “The new plantation, mass incarceration/Instead of educate, they’d rather convict the kids," Common rhymes on the track.

To celebrate his new project, Common, Def Jam and ARTium Records held a private listening party on Thursday (Sept. 29) to preview his forthcoming album, also titled Black America Again. Tucked away on the second floor of a SoHo jewelry store on a rainy night, journalists, bloggers, music industry executives and more enjoyed champagne and hors d'oeuvres while the Windy City legend went track by track discussing his 11th studio album. Here's what you need to know.

  • 1

    Inspiration Comes From the Spectrum of Black Life Today

    Common explained that the point of this album is to showcase "the whole spectrum" of Black people in America today. After each song, he took the time to spit a few verses a cappella and break down the meanings behind the words. Common also cited other artists like fellow rapper Kendrick Lamar, author Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Hamilton musical as his inspirations.

  • 2

    Karriem Riggins Helped Make Black America Again a Reality

    Common credits producer Karriem Riggins with help on production. "Thank you Karriem," said the rapper, pointing to the famed beat smith who was in attendance. "This is the most inspired I've felt since probably J Dilla passed."

  • 3

    Stevie Wonder, Jay Rock and More Appear on Tracks

    Guest features on Black America Again range from Jay Rock, BJ The Chicago Kid and Syd of The Internet to Stevie Wonder, Bilal and Marsha Ambrosius. Common even teamed up with his Oscar partner John Legend for the heartfelt track "Let It Rain."

  • 4

    Common's Late Father Receives a Dedication

    Common's pops, Lonnie Lynn, Sr., passed away in 2014. "Little Chicago Boy," the last song on the album, is an ode to the relationship they shared. Always the storyteller, Common paints a picture of his dad teaching him the ways of the neighborhood and giving him his first pair of Jordans.

  • 5

    Pay Attention to the Release Date

    The project drops on Nov. 4, the Friday before Election Day in America. Common’s 11th LP is a fourth quarter heater not to be missed.

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