Common is so focused on acting these days, he says, that he's started taking classes. He recently got some hands-on experience while working with a well-respected collective of actors during the filming of his latest video, "Testify." Brothers Wood and Steve Harris, actress Taraji Henson, and Hollywood OG Bill Duke all answered the Chicago native's call to be in his clip.
"It's [got] some great actors," he said Wednesday in New York. "I love working with people who I feel are dope, whether it's a singer, actor, producer. I want to work with the people who I consider the cream. They're here to stay; these dudes have an impact on the game. Even though they not as big as a Denzel, people respect their artistry 'cause they're cold like that."
Common says he was especially psyched that Bill Duke — who he can remember, as a 5-year-old kid, watching as Abdullah in "Car Wash" — loved his work. Duke was particularly fond of Like Water for Chocolate's "A Song for Assata."
While writing rhymes to the Kanye West-produced "Testify," Common said he knew he had no choice but to give the song a theatrical feel.
"I was listening to the conviction in the voice in the vocal sample 'Before you lock my love away,' " he remembered. "[The singer] was coming from the heart. I felt that type of conviction in the character I was writing about. Because I'm into acting, I wanted to tell a back story a little bit. I approached it from that way. After a while, I thought about putting a twist to it. I love films that throw me like that."
Common says he and Kanye are conjuring up a twist of their own for their upcoming joint tour. The two start the West-headlined Touch the Sky tour October 11 in Miami and don't finish up until almost halfway through December.
"We want to present hip-hop at a higher level," he said. "The same way we approach the music, we approaching the live performance like that. Where you feel it's a show beyond hip-hop. Kanye is implementing the string section into his show a lot. I'm going to utilize that too, to a certain extent. Certain visuals we want to do, the presentations stylize how we dress. ... Putting on a show, man. We want to put on a show for all ages, all colors and [so that] you can feel the spirit of it."
Keyshia Cole and Fantasia are also going to be a part of the outing.
"It's dope. Keyshia Cole and Fantasia gonna give the people something else," he said. "It's gonna let the people see that level we trying to take hip-hop to. Let them see that hip-hop is beyond just us people wearing baggy clothes and what people expect hip-hop to be. These sisters will bring some soul to it with their singing. I know we gonna bring it to them. We gonna give them the business."