Touch caught up with rapper Common to hear his take on race and relationships
TOUCH: This is a lyric from the track ĎHeatí on your ĎLike Water For Chocolateí album: "State senators, life twirls, most sell out Ė like a dread with a white girl." Explain please.
COMMON: Rastafarianism is a black culture. When you see dreadlocked dudes with white girls thatís like they going against what the dreadlockís purpose was. The dreadlock was a symbol of black love and the black people gettiní to a certain level. In America weíve got a lot of dreadlocked dudes and all you see them with is white girls. I donít think thereís anything the matter with somebody loving somebody from another race but itís almost like a stereotype that if youíve got dreadlocks you go out with a white girl. I just feel like, as black men, we do have to be aware that, yo, every time we step out with some woman itís setting an example for our daughters and itís also representing something for our mothers. If you canít really love your own, how can you really love others?
TOUCH: So you donít agree with mixed race relationships?
COMMON: I disagree with them. It's a lack of self-love. It's a problem.
TOUCH: Have you ever dated outside your race?
COMMON: Nah, not dated [giggles].
TOUCH: Have you slept with anybody outside your race?
COMMON: Yeah, I definitely have.
TOUCH: So sleeping with someone outside your race is OK but dating isnít?
COMMON: People got their choice. Iím not telling them how to live their lives. I just tell them what I think about and what I feel about certain situations. Dealing with having sex with a white girl is something I have encountered and Iím not acting like white girls and other races are not people. We all people: children of God. But our race has been damaged. Sometimes to get back up to the level of respect and love, youíve gotta stick with your own for a minute and build a certain amount of strength and community within yours so that other people can respect and honour your traditions.
TOUCH: How do you feel about a black person dating a mixed race person of black and white parentage?
COMMON: Ah man, if youíve got one black parent and one white parent, then the majority of the time you considered black. People donít look at Tiger Woods and see heís mixed. They say heís a black golfer, even if he say heís something else. Look, I ainít here to judge peopleís relationships. Iím more about, "Hey black people, I see you out there talking about how you a Rastafarian, but you only wanna date white women". Is that what Rastafarianism is based on?
TOUCH: Rastafarianism has different houses with different views. Though Rastafarianism is about celebrating who you are and where youíre from, isnít it also about loving people regardless of creed or colour?
COMMON: I donít know all the bases of Rastafarianism, but I know that it stems from Africa and Ethiopia and really came into fruition in Jamaica during the time that the blacks were being oppressed. It was about black people paying homage to their culture, embracing their culture. So when you embrace your culture and then say, "OK, but Iím only gonna date the opposite race", to me thatís a little opposite to what youíre projecting out through your hair and the way you looking. I know you donít agree, but Iím glad that you bringing these things up. How do you feel, as a white lady?
TOUCH: I absolutely loved your album ĎLike Water For Chocolateí but that lyric pissed me off. I live in a very multicultural environment, maybe if I lived in America I would feel differently.
COMMON: Yeah, it definitely has something to do too with the way I was raised. I mean, not even from my parents, but from being in Chicago, a very segregated city. There is very much an enforcement of black culture where I grew up.
Common boards his plane. We agree to disagree. I tell him I respect that he speaks his mind in music. Days later our conversation continues.
TOUCH: Last time we talked about mixed race relationshipsÖ
COMMON: It was good that we talked about that. I talked about it even more after I hung up. I was talking to my team about it and they had their own views. My whole thing is that black women have been so put down Ė whether itís due to the oppression of a white government or we [black men] putting our own women down. When dudes say they only gonna focus on white girls, to me, itís like a slap in a black girlís face. Whatís ironic is when you hear this song on my new album called ĎReal Peopleí. It deals with something almost of the same nature. I say: "Black men walking with white girls on they arms. I be mad at íem as if I know they mums. Told to go beyond the surface, a personís a person. When we lessen our women our conditions seem to worsen". Iím glad we got to discuss this though. Ya know, I still feel like because Iím an artist and I say certain things, I have a responsibility to let people know what I mean. I canít claim to be perfect. Iím working too to be a better guy."
WORDS BY ELLE J SMALL
Taken from the June Edition of Touch magazine