Judging from his new and eccentric mode of dress, many are saying that Common has lost his fashion sense. Regardless of his current eye for trendy garments, the Chicago MC says he had his mind right when it came to recording his latest LP, Electric Circus, which drops on December 10.
"Each album that I do, I try to grow with it and try to do something
different from the last," Common said a few weeks ago in New Jersey, on the set of his video for "Come Close."
"This new album is definitely like a journey, an experiment with some new music and new things I was interested in (see "New Common Album Tastes Nothing Like Chocolate, ?uestlove Says"). It's progressive music. This
is where I am, at the time — not scared."
In the video for the first single, "Come Close," the Windy City native proposes to his hearing-impaired girlfriend while her next-door neighbor — who just happens to be queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J. Blige — sings on the sidelines.
"The idea was written by Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson from the Roots," Common said of the Sanna Hamri-directed clip. "Basically, I'm coming to serenade my lady with some cue cards. These cue cards are really illustrations and words that exemplify my words in the song. Once I say the last line, which is 'I want you to have my last name,' you find out that the reason I'm serenading my girl with cue cards is that she's deaf. I'm speaking to her through sight."
Common said it didn't take much prompting to get Blige back in the studio for another collaboration (the two previously worked on MJB's last LP).
"Mary J. is one of the great singers of our time," Common stated, explaining why he wanted to go back into the studio with her. "She brought in the new area of mixing R&B and hip-hop. She's still the reigning person to do that. Working with her from the beginning was an honor. She just came in humble and was like, 'Whatever you need, let's make it fresh.' "
"Certain people, like Common for instance, mean a lot to the world," Blige said between takes. "He says a lot of things that helps and heals people. It's a blessing that Common is doing this."
In addition to Mary J., Common worked with gal pal Erykah Badu (who he cites as inspiration for "Come Close") on a track called "Jimi Was a Rock Star." Other guests include Laetitia Sadier from Stereolab on "New Wave," Sonny from P.O.D. on "Electric Wire" and Soul Aquarian Bilal and keyboard-playing Prince on "Star *69 (PS with Love)."
Besides "Come Close" producers the Neptunes, Common sequestered his friends James Poyser and ?uestlove in the lab for the bulk of the album's beats.