The inimitable Maya Angelou said, “They call Common a rapper, but I call him a poet.” You know, that was my first thought the first time I heard a Common verse. I can’t remember specifically where I first heard him – I think it was on a Kanye West song – but I remember thinking something about him was more lyrical; just different. There was a slam-poetry style to his rhythm, something reminiscent of the likes of Gil Scott Heron, that leaned more on accentual emphasis, feeling, and repetition than it did on speed or wit. His metaphors were more imagistic than punny. Common didn’t have the spit flow of a Nas or a Ye, but his words had simple rawness and power. Common is a poet.
So when I heard earlier this year that he was releasing a self-authored memoir, my thought was, it’s about time! I scooped the book off Amazon as soon as I had the extra cash.
And it’s not what I expected.