Jan 5 2012

A Conversation with Common: ‘I Want to Become One of the Greats’

It has been nearly 20 years since the “conscious rapper” Common released his debut album, yet he continues to treat his fans to new and deeper insights into why he is, and will remain, a cultural icon.

–And it just keeps getting better.

This handsome and grounded multi-talent has had so much success of late, 2011 might as well just be called The Year of Common Sense.

Not only did his memoir, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, recently debut on the prestigious New York Times Best Sellers List, but Common the actor followed up his 2010 success starring opposite Queen Latifah in Just Wright, by turning up the heat beneath his thespian aspirations. He appeared in BET’s sizzling new, “Single Ladies,” has a recurring role in AMC’s dramatic western, “Hell on Wheels,” is currently promoting his first voice-over role in the animated feature Happy Feet Two, and was pegged to star in Quentin Tarantino’s gritty (what else?) western Django.

All that, and Common made time for the studio. His 12th album, The Dreamer, the Believer drops on December 20th-just in time for one of my loved ones to make it an extra special Christmas gift (hint, hint).

Common recently sat down with me to speak on the things he’s been learning along the way:

What is your purpose?

My purpose is to encourage love. Is to enlighten and inspire people to love…to be free and loving themselves. My purpose is to bring as many people closer to God as possible.

If self esteem was measured on a scale of 0-100, where is yours today, and where was it at at the lowest it’s ever been?

Today 97. The lowest about a 30. I had a breakup with Erykah Badu and my esteem was low. I think around that time I released an album called Electric Circus and it didn’t do well. People were talking a lot of stuff about it but the talk didn’t really affect me as much. I don’t really let how people are talking affect me too much.

How did you climb back up from there?

I really had to get to a place where I wasn’t trying to dim my light to please the person next to me. You have to love yourself strongly. Love God, love yourself, then love others. You can’t defy yourself in your generosity to others.

Do you have another book in you?

I do have another book in me. I will write another one at some point because there are things to talk about that can inspire and give people hope. I recently had a woman at the airport stop me…She put her daughter on the phone to tell me how she got through a breakup by reading my book [I Like You, But I Love Me]. She said, “As soon as I read it it made me realize I’m okay. Other people go through this.” I know I have more experiences to share and give a perspective on. I realize that art can really provide motivation for people.

When something awesome happens in your life, who do you call?

If I’m in a relationship, I call that person. My assistant is someone I’m really close with, so I’ll call that person. There are a couple of best friends of mine from Chicago I call. I’ll call my mother. I’ll definitely call her. She may be the first.

Why aren’t you married?

I would like to be married. I’m really at that point in my life where I would like to settle down and have a family. I don’t know why I haven’t married yet. God hasn’t put that right there for me yet but I know it will happen. The power of intention will bring that about.

Speaking of the power of intention, was there ever something you initially thought was impossible, yet you used the power of intention to bring that something into being?

I do believe where I am as an actor, I really put my intention towards these things. There are a lot of ways to climb, and I have a long way to go. I want to become one of the greats. My intention is there, and I believe that’s a place where i’m seeing it happen. That’s why I named my album The Dreamer, the Believer, because of that. Because when you dream you gotta believe in it with all your being.

What song on The Dreamer, the Believer would change my life if I really listened to it?

Blue Sky would help motivate your life and The Believer would solidify changing your life.

–by Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com

Sep 17 2011

“Curvy” Ballerina Speaks on Being American Ballet Theatre’s First Black Soloist

The image most of us have of mainstream classical ballet is one of stick-thin white women  who got their start in the world of dance back when they were toddlers sporting baby ballet slippers and tiny tutus.

Prepare to revamp that image now that Misty Copeland has forever changed the face (and a few other body parts) of American classical ballet.

Misty was 13 years old when she took her first ballet class wearing socks and sweats on the basketball court in the Boys and Girls Club in her home town. Four years later she was dancing with the notoriously homogenous American Ballet Theatre as their only African American troupe member. Today she is the first black soloist to perform with the company since Nora Kimball, 30 years ago.

“When I started dancing I never thought I would have such a voice,” says Copeland. “Being the only black woman in my company for 11 years I’ve found my voice…I want to introduce more people to [classical ballet].”

In addition to the attention her ABT career has brought her, Misty also found a new audience when she was asked by Prince to tour with him and perform her classical technique on stage. “Collaborating with Prince opened up so many people’s eyes…and made [ballet] cool,” she says of the experience.

Copeland told the Huffington Post that working with Prince, “helped me to see the bigger picture — to not be so focused on the political things that happen in my company and with dancers around me…Not to feel judged by other people. When you’re in a field like I am, you get more negative feedback than you do positive. I mean, we stand in front of a mirror all day because we’re supposed to look at our flaws and fix them. So it’s been nice having someone say positive things like, “You can do this” and “The sky’s the limit.”

Misty recently filmed a “Day in the Life” segment with award-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock in which she visited a Boys and Girls Club to mentor a group of aspiring ballerinas. She told the girls, “It’s really exciting to see young dancers that look like me…It makes me so happy to see you.  My mom was a single parent and I’m one of six kids and we all went to the Boys and Girls Club…It seems like this fairytale but I made it.”

Misty intends to encourage more black girls to consider dancing classical ballet. “It’s important to keep black women in this field motivated and on track,” she explains, “because so many are turned away and told do other forms of dance because they’ll be more accepted and it will be easier for them. So, my goal is to try to push them in this direction. I wish I would have had someone, especially a black woman I could have looked up to.”

-by Kathleen Cross for RollingOut.com

Mar 22 2005

One on One with Jamie Foxx: He’s Swinging at All the Right Pitches (ARCHIVE)

I picture Jamie Foxx’s soul thirty-eight years ago floating around in the spirit world preparing for his ordained time here on Earth. An angel is pointing out the lines souls can wait in to get what they need to do good work as human beings.

Foxx is paying extra close attention as the angel explains, “This line is for exceptional musical prowess; that one is the comedic creativity line; to your left 

is the queue for vocal talent, and the lines for courage and humility are right next to each other on the other side of kindness and loyalty. Oh, and don’t forget the one for acting skills—it’s way down there near intelligence and athletic ability. The angel tells Foxx he only has time to stand in four or five of the lengthy queues before leaving for Earth, but he pretends he doesn’t understand the directions and cuts to the front of every one of the lines quite a few times.

Farfetched? Of course. But what other explanation can there be for one man being so d#@ned blessed in so many areas?

For those of us who have been paying attention to Foxx’s career over the years, the fact that the man can play the piano, sing his heart out, and act his behind off is not breaking news. Okay, maybe we didn’t know he had Ray in him, but we watched in awe as he showed what he could do in Redemption, a role that earned him a 2005 Independent Spirit Award nomination for best actor. Then there was Collateral, the blockbuster film co-starring Tom Cruise that earned Foxx the Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. And, last year when he crooned alongside Kanye West on that “Slow Jamz” hit, we all suspected that we might only be scratching the surface of all that this talented brother has to offer.

The lingering question on everyone’s mind, now that the Oscar dust has settled and Foxx has officially joined that exclusive alliance of Academy Award winners, is: What could possibly be next?

I recently asked Foxx that question, and he answered in his characteristically humble way, referring to himself and his soaring career in the third person and refusing to use the word “I” to boast about future goals:

“When you do something and it changes the culture—that’s what we have to do as black folks. When ‘In Living Color’ came along it changed the culture. Denzel and Sidney Poitier, they changed the culture. So, this is one of those opportunities where we see the culture changing.”

Foxx is a little teary-eyed when he adds, “Sidney Poitier said to me, ‘What I’m going to give you is responsibility,’ and to have things like that told to you—it means more than awards. It means more than all of this. It means you have been given a torch to carry.”

The torch of artistic responsibility is one Foxx can definitely handle. In recent years he has been patiently biding his time—rejecting offers that didn’t feel right. “There are a lot of things we could’ve swung at and it would’ve come out bad,” Foxx explains, referring to the decisions he and his management team made to wait for projects that would further his career goals. “Luckily we were able to do like a great baseball player and wait on our pitch; and the pitch was Collateral. The pitch was Ray Charles. The pitch was a record with Kanye West. So when you get a chance to get the right things thrown at you, you stay ready. You know you’re not only here to do the right things, but now people are going to accept it.”

Foxx used another sports metaphor to compare his artistic responsibility to his experience as a high school sophomore playing football on a varsity championship team. “We lost the big game. I saw the seniors crying, and I was like, ‘What are they crying about?’ ‘cause I had more games to play. But my junior and my senior year we never got that far. I call that ‘younging it away.’ We can’t young this away. If we young it away and do not respect those people who laid the path for us, maybe something goes awry and it doesn’t happen the way we want it to happen. That’s why it’s so important to be respectful and let [the elders] know that you’re going to do the right thing.”

Asked what the right thing is, Foxx replied, “You can do whatever you want as long as it’s real, it’s respectful and it’s good. You can never be mediocre. Whatever you do, it has to be great.”

-for RollingOut.com