"I think hip-hop truly has been the voice of this time period in speaking of the times."
Common's new studio album Black America Again finds the Chicago rapper addressing issues of race and injustice in America today, and the fact that it was released a week or so before election day was no accident. Common explained his decision to release this album at this point in time in an interview with Esquire.
"Initially when I was writing it, it was originally going to be an EP and we were going to release it in the summer," he said. "But as the project started to develop and became what it became, it was like, "Man, this is an election year. This music needs to be out and heard at that time."
Of course, Common sees himself as one of many primarily black artists speaking out at this point in time. "A lot of people and artists out there speaking up. And I'm talking from visual artists to writers to music artists," he says. "If you look at these times, people will go back and study these times and be like, "Man, Kendrick Lamar dropped this album, Lorna Simpson did this artwork, Kehinde Wiley did this, Rashid Johnson did this artwork, and Ava DuVernay did this documentary called 13th. There's a lot of things happening. Barry Jenkins did a movie about a black kid that was gay and was fighting it because he couldn't exist. These are powerful stories and really high-level art being released at this time. I think that the times have created some of that, and I think it speaks to the times.
As far as hip-hop's role in inspiring change, Common is pretty happy with the efforts he's seen from artists over the last year. "I think hip-hop truly has been the voice of this time period in speaking of the times, speaking up. You're just starting to see hip-hop artists really participate in the political campaigns and using their voices to say, Get out and vote," he said, mentioning Chance the Rapper's push to encourage voting. "Chance set up places where people could register at his concerts to vote. Hip-hop is not only just saying it, but there are artists out there doing it."
Read the full interview here. Common's new album Black America Again is now available to stream.