Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Common? Not a Bit; a Most Singular Man in Our Cookie Cutter Culture

Image result for Common as gunny martin

I see Common is in a new movie. I will see it.  Common is a great actor.

Common is the name of a Rap artist and very solid actor. He is a south side kid from Calumet Heights, under the Skyway and over by the Avalon Theater, around 87th. and Chicago Ave. sliced by Stoney Island.

Rap, Hip-Hop and Gangstah Rap is not to my tastes.  However, no genre is all bad or all good and true genius emerges unexpectedly from music panned by old timers, just as novelty pop had been in my 1960's era- Alley Oop is no novelty tune; it is the swagger of American manhood: " He walks thru the jungle tearin' limbs off a trees/ Knocks BIG monsters flat on their knees." Q.E.D. Look at that caveman go!

Every American male should be baptized in this song*. The cats don't bug him, because they no better/ He's mean-motor-scooter and bad go-getter.

In the first decade of this new century, roughly 2006, I bothered Leo High School's Executive Assistant,Miss Natasha Adams, almost daily about a tune that was played on WGCI 107.5 FM.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6mnKNr2Tiq8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

" 'Tash, who does that song again?" I would ask. . ..every time I passed Miss Adams' desk.


" Who are they?"

"Common is one man."

"Common what?"

" Just "Common," Mr. Hickey, like Cher?"

"Is that his real name?"

" No, he has a real name and he graduated from Luther South."

" I like that song. What's it called?"

" Corner"

"Corner, by Common?"

" Yes."

" One word?"


"One word - he got a thing for one word?"

" Songs over, Mr. Hickey.  Scat!  I must type these letters for Mr. ( President) Foster."

"Why one word?"

"Ask Mr. Foster."

" Thing for one word.  Weird."

" Hickey! Go raise money and leave me alone, please."

"One word - Hickey!  Like Common."

"No, not like Common!  Go!"

I got.

I liked Corner.  I did not care for most Hip-Hop, but this was authentic and deep and included the OGs of the genre The Last Poets.  I was introduced to the Last Poets just before I began teaching in Kankakee, IL and teachers like Dave Raiche, Jim Frogge and Nick Novich were most hip to the Last Poets.  I loved Jazz and Nick Novich pointed out the jazz nuances reflected in the scatting and percussive hammering of inages by The Last Poets, a la Sun Ra and Rashan Roland Kirk.

I next became steeped  in Common watching that wonderful tale of the transcontinental railroad Hell on Wheels.   He was riveting.  Common played the role of a recently freed black man as a tower of dignity and fierce intelligence.

The young man is no screaming Samuel L. Jackson minstrel show player. He uses his powerful and studied voice like the musician he is and paints the vocal tower of singular poise that matches his physical grace.     <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XcbaXH2PN8I" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> See what I mean?

Also, Common never manages to make a complete goof of himself and presents youngsters with a solid image of a centered man.  He is not a media creep and political weasel like Chance the Rapper seems to be, nor is he a knuckle head with a death wish like Chief Keef AND  HE DOES NOT SCREAM AT THE TOP OF HIS VOICE ABOUT NONSENSE LIKE SAMUEL L. JACKSON@# Dialit down.

Common exudes dignity.

Few actors can carry this off - Spencer Tracy and Anthony Quinn come to mind. No notices anyone else when they are on screen. Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe and Common are about the two best examples of this quality today.

* alternatives:


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