Hive Five: Common’s Not-So-Socially Conscious Past

Common in Hollywood, Calif., November 2011. Photo: Beck Starr/FilmMagic

The socially conscientious Common is known for his challenging lyrics while presenting himself as a positive celebrity role model and sporting a fine array of hippy-ish hats, right? Well, these days, maybe. But in his early years, the Chicago artist wasn’t so neatly packaged and didn’t always have the open mind he’s associated with. Thus, in an effort to balance out the uplifting nature of his new album, The Dreamer/The Believer (out today), here’s a trawl through Common past. It’s probably best he moved on. He seems much happier.

1. Anti-Pro-Choice (or more commonly known as “pro-life”)

Now you could say Common deserves a moral pat on the back for choosing to write a song that deals with the problem of an unplanned pregnancy. But “Retrospect for Life,” with Lauryn Hill, unravels into a pretty full-on manifesto for the pro-life set, most gruesomely with talk about “turning this woman’s womb into a tomb.” The slow-motion scenes in the video are ripe for being flipped into a Pro Life Action League campaign. [Watch here.]

2. Alcoholism

On 1994′s Resurrection, Common declared that he had to “halt with the malt liquor/ ‘Cause off the malt liquor I fought n****s [and] now my speech and thoughts quicker.” The Chi-town rapper’s alcohol abstinence may be something of an admirable stance, but frankly he rapped better when he embraced his tipsy side and was bragging about “gimme a Bud Light and shit’ll get lit like a cigarette.” Com outlines his beer habit best on “Book Of Life,” where after eating some fast food from “an Arab” he stops off “at the liquor store/ Grab me a six pack/ Knowing that once I’m done with that I’ll be back to get some more.” The kicker? The wanton realization, “My liver I burn it up.” [Watch here.]

3. Anti-Mixed-Race Marriages

Love, we are told in many a rom-com, is color blind. But not in Com’s crazy world, where the beloved union of a man and a woman is sternly frowned upon if the beaus happen to be of different ethnic origins. The song “Real People” features the observation, “Black men walking with white girls on they arms/ I be mad at ‘em as if I know they moms.” The comment was enough to cause a bunch of U.K.-based rappers Yunguns to record the dis song, “Dear Common.” [Watch here.]

4. Homophobia

At one point Common was one of hip-hop’s most dedicated homophobes. On the J Dilla-produced “Nag Champa (Afrodisiac For The World),” (from 2000′s Like Water for Chocolate) he shows his disdain for “rumors of gay MCs” and warns them “just don’t come around me.” Then just in case he wasn’t getting his message across, he soon follows it with the advice, “You still rockin’ hickies/ Don’t let me find out he did it.” [Watch here.]

5. Misogyny

Common’s words, not ours: “Just because I fucked you doesn’t mean that I’ma marry you/ Bury you, I will do, after I bill you/ Kill you, hoe, ’cause your shit smells like mildew.” And that’s just for starters on “Heidi Ho,” from his 1992 debut Can I Borrow a Dollar? Over a tough beat hooked up by the Beatnuts, Com continues to vent at the Heidi of the title, before ending by informing her, “There’s a party in your mouth, bitch, and everybody’s coming.” Presumably life advice like “So slut you better grow up” is a sentiment Com will have no problem repeating for his real life parenting duties. [Watch here.]

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