Two-time Grammy winner Common, 36, is best known for his socially conscious rhymes on albums like Be and, more recently, Finding Forever, but that probably won't be the case for long. Like so many rappers, he's been bitten by the acting bug. Last year, he appeared in shoot-'em-up Smokin' Aces and with Denzel Washington in American Gangster; this year, he's already appeared screen in the quickly forgotten Keanu Reeves cop drama Street Kings, and he's sharing screen time with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman in the comic-book action flick Wanted. If that's not impressive enough, he's landed a major supporting role in the next Terminator sequel and, if rumors are true, a starring role as Green Lantern in the Justice League of America movie.
New Times: What is it about stepping in front of the camera that appeals to you?
Common: When you're an artist, you want to grow as you create. I think acting's just an expansion of my artistry. When you love something, you love it. I found that I love this. I'm not surprised I did, but I am surprised by how it made me feel. I was learning something about myself acting and about people. You relate to people a whole different way because you've walked in their shoes a bit.
NT: Has that affected your work in the recording studio?
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Common: I deal with characters more. I always dealt with the story, but now I tell the story of the person and how did they get to be this way. Also, when I'm rapping, I try to make sure the emotion is coming through like I would with a character. I've been doing hip-hop for a long time. It's been my sole means of expression. With me doing movies, it gives me another outlet artistically and another way to survive and create income — which allows me to make music more freely. At some point, music will become [more than a way] to make a living. It will just be something I want to do, while acting will be my living.
NT: Your latest album [Invincible Summer] is dropping in August. What can we expect from that?
Common: You can expect some fresh music you've never heard from Common before, especially with The Neptunes producing it. The inspiration came to me from being out at the clubs. I'd say, "Man, I want people to feel my music that way." [The record] is just good summertime music that you . . . can sit back, smile, kick it to. I say "smile" on the album so many times. The album is about people smiling.