Common Breaks Down Mass Incarceration On Poignant "Letter To The Free"
Common smiles at the AAHH! Fest in Chicago, Ill. [Photo: Johnny Fan | Okayplayer]
When Common raps about sociopolitical issues and racial injustice, only a handful of MCs can do it better. “Letter To The Free,” the third drop from his upcoming album Black America Again, continues to show his dedication to using his music to speak about things that matter.
Common loads his verses with focused rhymes about mass incarceration, the prison industrial complex, and their disproportional impact on black people – with a sly shot at presidential candidate Donald Trump in the mix. “Prison is a business, America’s the company/investing in justice, fear and long suffering/we staring in the face of hate again/the same hate they say will make America great again,” he asserts.
He debuted the song (and other selected album cuts) with Robert Glasper, Karriem Riggins, Keyon Harold, and Derrick Hodge on the instruments and Bilal for the chorus, in the White House Library in a performance with NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert series. The recorded version appeared in 13th, Ava Duvernay‘s Netflix documentary about the same topic. Now, on Friday night, the song has been released on Common’s Soundcloud page.
“Letter To The Free” is the third song formally released from Black America Again, Common’s 11th studio album, produced by Karriem Riggins. First, it was the upbeat “Love Star,” assisted by Marsha Ambrosius and PJ. After that, he dropped the defiant Stevie Wonder-assisted title track. He dropped memorable visuals for both: “Love Star” was supported with a documentary about black love, and the music video for “Black America Again” shows footage of the police killing of Alton Sterling before showing poignant shots of Esperanza Spalding, Chuck D and MC Lyte. Check the album’s track list – which features Syd (of The Internet), BJ The Chicago Kid, Tasha Cobbs and John Legend – and preorder on iTunes for its scheduled Nov. 4 release date.