Common has penned an open letter in memory of friend, mentor and literary icon Maya Angelou following her death on May 28th, at the age of 86. Common begins with his first introduction to Angelou as an elementary school student, inspired by her published works. The urge to express himself through the medium of the written word would later find Common rising through the ranks of the rap world, eventually becoming a pillar of golden era hip-hop and the Chicago music scene. The widely-respected lyricist and Soulquarian vet delivers his profound note of thanks as others around the world mourn the loss of the renowned author and activist in a massive stream of tributes and condolences ahead of her memorial service:
I didn’t know that it would be through hip hop and the gift of rap that I would open myself up and become a writer and MC. Through writing I would get the opportunity to travel and see the world—London, Sydney, Johannesburg, Osaka—and it was writing that brought me one October evening to a charity event in New York where we were blessed to have as our luminary for the night, Dr. Maya Angelou. Having her as our guest was a fluke of Divine Order and a true example of Ask and You shall receive.
What had happened was the poet we booked to perform dropped out last minute so my mother said, “I’m gonna try to get in touch with Dr. Maya Angelou.” I said, “Ma, are you crazy? Maya Angelou? How do you think we’re gonna get one of the greatest beings that ever graced this earth last minute? She doesn’t know who Common is.”
Well, to this day I don’t know if she had ever heard of Common before the call was made but somehow through God’s thread she said she would like to meet with me before she decided if she would do the event. So here I am headed to Harlem to meet her at her apartment, just got my hair cut, heart beating, I walk into her beautiful space that smelled like integrity, art, generosity, love, hope, inspiration, honesty, and home. We would sit for two and a half hours talking about writing, my daughter, San Francisco, and Tupac. And oh yeah, Paul Robeson.
The next night she did her thing at the event and embraced me as a young writer-artist, an important voice in hip hop and even flirted with me. Now that really made me feel special. She and I would go on to build a bond that not only would have us spreading love at events in Harlem, Chicago, and D.C., but I would be blessed to go visit her at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C., and celebrate several birthdays with her where we had great times and I got to know her lovely family. It was always an honor to be in her presence and though she did feel like my mother, my grandma, and my friend. I would always Thank God for being there with her.
Alongside Com’s note of remembrance comes the planned release date for his forthcoming Nobody’s Smiling LP, which is slated to arrive on July 22nd via Artium/Def Jam. The highly-anticipated release produced by longtime friend, collaborator and Windy City brother No I.D. brings Common full circle, as his first full-length project arrives on his homeboy’s Artium imprint with the promise of a whole lot of Chi-Town flavor. Stay tuned for more from Common ahead of the forthcoming release.
Read the full text of Common’s letter to Maya Angelou via The Daily Beast. The private memorial service for Maya Angelou will be held on Saturday, June 7th at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The university will live stream the service to the public via wfu.edu.