Common Talks ‘Letter To The Free’ & How Chance The Rapper Is Helping Chicago At Tribeca Film Festival

Common captures the essence of black life and culture like no other. Hailing from Chicago the Academy Award, Golden Globe and Grammy winner is the ultimate artist and he has no plans of slowing down.

During the Tribeca Film Festival he debuted his short film,’Letter to the Free’ inspired by his song of the same title.

Rooted in hip-hop culture Common shares his ills on the track that takes a look into mass incarceration that has mainly effected brown families. The scenes are shot in a old jail that looks to be abandoned.

Director, Bradford Young opens with black and white scenes that paint the portrait that something great is about to take place in the dilapidated prison space. There is the square black that floats in the prison cells. I interpreted this floating canvas of black as the sunken place. This is where dreams have died, visions have been blurred and families have been destroyed due to mass incarceration.

Singularly, we hear flutes, keys, horns, drums, we start to experience ‘eargasms’ in a very desolate place. We vibe to the sound of Commons’ lyrics flowing from his mouth like sweet melted butter. He serves lyrics of the struggle. He serves lyrics of political and institutional oppressions, the cup runneth over with mastered lyrical genius. Common is writing and rewriting his story. To be the storyteller that he is he was wiling to take the musical experience to another height.

The short film was followed Common in conversation with Nelson George. Nelson George is a powerhouse himself. Nelson George is an author and filmmaker who celebrates black culture in America. He is currently a producer and writer on Netflix’s The Get Down and recently directed the Lifetime movie The Real MVP.

Common and Nelson talked about how he gained a new perspective on the film after having just watched it again. “We are infinite in our blackness… when I watched the film this time I really felt like wow; it’s so much humanity and and talent and gifts that’s locked up right now”, said Common. He spoke of the people that have so much to offer the world but they are locked up. He spoke of embracing those who don’t think like he thinks and being a more open human being. Walking in his purpose has allowed him to become a better artist.

Here are the lyrics and music video… Enjoy!
At one point in his career hip-hop was the main inspiration for his work. Now, the older and wiser Common gains inspiration from the books he is reading, the gospel music the he now listens to, the people that he may not see eye to eye with and the intellectuals he surround himself with. One of my favorite moments in the talk was when Common talked about women and the power that us women possess.

Following the talk Common delivered a stellar concert with the likes of Robert Glasper on the keys. He gave us interludes of admiration for the projects he had worked on throughout his career. He was about sharing the stage with his fellow musicians. He was never selfish with the shine. He brought out R & B crooner Bilal, whose voice was the perfect mix over the jazz inspired vibrations over hip hop beats. He free styled and delivered to us his classics such as: Used to Love Her, The Light, Testify, Go, Come Close and last but not least… ‘Letter To The Free”.

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[Verse 1: Common]
Southern leaves, southern trees we hung from
Barren souls, heroic songs unsung
Forgive them Father they know this knot is undone
Tied with the rope that my grandmother died
Pride of the pilgrims affect lives of millions
Since slave days separating, fathers from children
Institution ain’t just a building
But a method, of having black and brown bodies fill them
We ain’t seen as human beings with feelings
Will the U.S. ever be us? Lord willing!
For now we know, the new Jim Crow
They stop, search and arrest our souls
Police and policies patrol philosophies of control
A cruel hand taking hold
We let go to free them so we can free us
America’s moment to come to Jesus

[Chorus: Bilal]
Freedom (Freedom)
Freedom come (Freedom come)
Hold on (Hold on)
Won’t be long (Won’t be long)
Freedom (Freedom)
Freedom come (Freedom come)
Hold on (Hold on)
Won’t be long (Won’t be long)

[Verse 2: Common]
The caged birds sings for freedom to ring
Black bodies being lost in the American dream
Blood of black being, a pastoral scene
Slavery’s still alive, check Amendment 13
Not whips and chains, eye subliminal
Instead of ‘nigga’ they use the word ‘criminal’
Sweet land of liberty, incarcerated country
Shot me with your ray-gun
And now you want to trump me
Prison is a business, America’s the company
Investing in injustice, fear and long suffering
We staring in the face of hate again
The same hate they say will make America great again
No consolation prize for the dehumanized
For America to rise it’s a matter of Black Lives
And we gonna free them, so we can free us
America’s moment to come to Jesus[Chorus: Bilal]
Freedom (Freedom)
Freedom come (Freedom come)
Hold on (Hold on)
Won’t be long (Won’t be long)
Freedom (Freedom)
Freedom come (Freedom come)
Hold on (Hold on)

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