This Wednesday, D.C. welcomes an icon. Rapper, actor, writer, and philanthropist Common—the first rapper to win an Emmy, Grammy, and Oscar—will be performing at the Warner Theatre. Common spoke with City Paper about the show, which blends theater and music, the local performers who join him, a list of his favorite spots in D.C., and a reflection on what makes D.C. audiences special.
WCP: What will you be performing at the Warner Theatre on Wednesday?
Common: I’m coming to perform as part of the Let Love tour, coming to bring a live performance of music and theater—it’s a whole different experience as far as the presentation. I go through the whole catalog of music that I’ve done throughout the years that people want to hear, but we also perform new songs off the new album that’ll be out August 30th.
I call it a combination of music and theater because there’s dialogue, theater; there’s script to it. It’s a beautiful presentation, I’m very excited. I sat down with a theater director by the name of Awoye [Timpo], she’d done plays, directed plays for a while, she’s a really talented director. We sat down with a couple of writers and we created this story, the journey of this character based around the music that I released and the music that I wanted to do. It’s really like, this person’s quest for love—how can he find love, he’s challenged in love. Obviously it has a lot of reflections of me and my life, it is a character that’s somewhat based on me.
It makes the show so much more of an experience. I love theater, I want to do plays and be on Broadway, so I thought one of the most fun ways for me to perform this new project and my live performance would be to combine music and theater.
WCP: You’ll be joined onstage by Baltimore-born, D.C.-raised Maimouna Youssef—Mumu Fresh—who graduated from D.C.’s Duke Ellington School for the Arts. How did you first meet Maimouna, and why did you choose to bring her into this leg of the tour?
C: I’ve been connected to Maimouna Youssef since my album Be, she did some background vocals on the song “Love is…” She’s always been one of those multi-faceted, talented people who can sing, has amazing presence, and also can rap. There’s not many people who can do that. She used to tour with me and sing background, she’s on the majority of the rest of the show. We have another artist from D.C. performing with us, her name is Muhsinah Abdul-Karim, she’s a super talented vocalist and producer.
WCP: You’ve spent a fair amount of time in D.C., have you found any favorite spots around town?
C: I love Busboys and Poets, that’s still a staple for me. I’ve got so much respect for Howard University, I’ve got so much respect for what they do. My daughter attended there, I was there for her graduation. Sankofa bookstore is another place I’d like to give it up to.
WCP: D.C. is home to people from all walks of life and corners of the world. What are those audiences like?
C: I’ve been fortunate in my performances to have multicultural, different age ranges, at performances. I’m used to performing to multicultural crowds, I love that. That’s one of the brightest things about hip-hop to me, and it’s great that D.C. has that. I’m expecting people from different backgrounds, different nationalities, different spiritual practices, different age groups, the LGBTQIA community—I rock for all people.
WCP: People outside of D.C. sometimes see the city as the political Washington that’s on the news. How do you describe D.C.?
C: I describe it as a place that has a lot of character, a lot of soul. There’s truly an art community in D.C.—bookstores, filmmakers. It’s a center for culture and people; it’s a beautiful amalgamation of people that represent the world in many ways.
Common brings his Let Love Tour with Maimouna Youssef to the Warner Theatre on Wednesday, August 14 at 8 p.m. $32-$67.