Common Wants To Curb Chicago Youth Violence

Following death of Derrion Albert, rapper says it's 'our responsibility' to teach kids to value their own lives.

In the wake of the tragic death of 16-year-old Derrion Albert, many hip-hop artists have spoken out about violence, not only among the youth of Chicago, but in other cities like Atlanta and Newark. Nas wrote an open letter to Chicago teens following the honor student's senseless beating death, urging them that they were fighting the wrong war.

Killer Mike blogged for, apologizing to Albert and the four teens charged with his murder, Silvonus Shannon, 19; Eugene Riley, 18; Eugene Bailey, 17; and Eric Carson, 16, for letting them down. David Banner also addressed the situation in his song, appropriately titled, "Something Is Wrong."

MTV News caught up with Common at Wednesday's Hennessy Artistry 2009 Series show in New York, and the legendary Chicago MC echoed their sentiments. "For me, I grew up around it, but I have a great mom, have a wonderful stepfather and great family around, and I know every kid is not provided that blessing which we should naturally have," Common said.

"I look at it now and say it's just some of the choices I was able to make because of what I was exposed to and the opportunities I had. And because I know these kids don't have it, I feel like it's our responsibility to give them the opportunity, to give them the information, to listen to them."

The South Side native said he initially didn't want to see the viral video that captured Albert's beating death because he felt that it was just making people angrier. But eventually, he did watch it, and what he felt was hurt. "Just to know that that young man, and young men and women all over the city been dying all over the country — it's a painful thought."

Common said incidents of young people being murdered are nothing new for the city. But Albert's death has brought the issue back into the national spotlight. According to The New York Times, 34 Chicago students were killed last year and at least 290 were injured in shootings. Common said the solution to the problem lies in showing teens and young children that there's hope out there and their lives have value.

"When you value your life, you will value others' lives too," he said. "You got to really just know that the choices you make will affect the rest of your life."