"It Was Like A Whole New Sound" - Common On Prince
Suppose we’ve all had that Prince-inspired eureka moment, when the man’s genius finally clicks in the back of your brain and sends you down the purple wormhole of discovery. In fact, our Prince Day celebration has been littered with tales of that nature from Talib Kweli and Spike Lee, respectively.
Now we’re pivoting our lens to the work of Common, whose Electric Circus has been characterized as his own personal Prince moment, delving into psychedelic rock and r&b akin to 1999 or Dirty Mind or any of P’s more experimental steel-toed outings. Though the pinnacle of their encounters may have come during Com’s historic appearance at the 2015 Golden Globe ceremony with John Legend, where the duo was presented the award for “Best Original Song” for their work on Selma by Prince himself….but that’s far from where Common’s paisley spark originated.
Below you’ll read a first-hand account of just how Prince infiltrated Common’s musical mind and left his mark there, like he has for so many artists before and after his time. And on Prince Day, what would have been his 58th birthday, there’s no better way to celebrate the man who preferred to go uncelebrated. Skim through the pages below and learn just how profound even a few moments with His Royal Badass can be.
Okayplayer: Could you tell us about what Prince’s music meant to you as a kid, as a music fan before you were ever an artist yourself?
Common: For me it was the first time I have ever heard any music that was God-driven and also sexual at the same time; it was like a whole new sound. When I was young, I used get excited to listen to his music because i didn’t know whether or not I was allowed to listen to his music. it felt like it was something new and fresh. It felt like it was something all our own because it was new. It wasn’t like he was an artist that came from the ’60s, even though it was late ’70s his music still felt like it was for the younger generation and ended up being for every generation. At that time, it felt like music that was on the edge. You didn’t really know if you were supposed to listen to his music but you did anyway. It was also like the name of his group, very revolutionary from the other music that I had heard.
OKP: Was there a memorable first time or association with his music from your younger days?
Com: My next door neighbor, who’s name was DeDe, was a little bit older than me and a beautiful girl who listened to Prince. I always wanted to hear him because she listened to him. She thought he was cool and sexy and I remember going over to her house and looking at the cover of the 1999 record and I believe it was a picture of a penis. Being a kid, I remember thinking “Wow, this dude put that on there.” When you are a kid, you laugh at things, you make it funny because you just don’t really know how to react. My memories were really just going over to DeDe’s house listening to his records. We even played them backwards because people would say that he was saying things and you could hear them if you played the record backward.