Credit: Nabil

For some artists, reading their name on the list of Grammy nominees last week was a brand-new experience. Not Common. The Chicago rapper-actor has been a Grammy mainstay this decade, taking home trophies for 2002 (Best R&B Song with Erykah Badu) and 2007 (Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group with Kanye West). This year, he got nods in the categories of Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (for guesting on Kid Cudi’s “Make Her Say”) and Best Rap Album (his own Universal Mind Control). We got Com on the phone to find out how he’s feeling about the Grammy race, plus a status update on his next album, The Believer, and a couple of film projects.

EW:If I’m counting right, you were nominated eleven times before this year. Are you still excited when you get another couple of nominations?

COMMON: Yes, I was still excited to hear about it. It caught me off-guard. I was actually eating dinner with some of my friends in Washington, D.C. I got a text saying “Congratulations,” and I was like, “Congratulations? What’s going on? Did somebody say I’m getting married? Do I have a child out there I don’t know is coming?” [Laughs] So I asked the person — this was someone from my management team — “Congratulations for what?” and she told me, “Congratulations on your Grammy nomination.” Later, she texted me back, “You got two.” So I was very excited.

Do you think you’re going to win those awards?

I mean, I hope to win. I believe I’ve got a good chance.

The other people in the Best Rap Album category are Mos Def, Q-Tip, Flo Rida, and Eminem. How do you feel about the company you have there?

It’s some really talented people nominated. For me to be able to say I’m in the company of Q-Tip and Mos Def and Eminem, just to be in competition with those guys, is really cool for me.

Are you still working on your next album, The Believer?

Yeah, I’m working on The Believer right now. I’m actually working with No I.D. and Twilite Tone and Kanye West. Man, we’re looking forward to making some powerful music.

How far along is that album now?

It’s really in the beginning stages — the first quarter. But I plan to really focus and get it done.

A lot of people are excited that you and No I.D. are working together on an album again. How are you feeling about that?

I feel really excited, man. We did some preliminary pre-production type stuff, and it just felt so good to be working with him. It felt like, “Man, life is really, really good.” It’s full circle. You meet up with the person who’s partially responsible for beginning your career, and you’re like, “Man, this is really cool — that we meet at this place in our lives and our creative journeys and we really are enthused to work with each other.”

Have you had a chance to talk to Kanye about what you want to do with the album?

We know that we want to do some raw hip-hop. That’s exactly the direction and feel we want, so that’s the basis of it. ‘Ye and I definitely know we want to do some pure hip-hop.

What kind of timeframe are you looking at for that album?

I’m looking for an early summer release.

What acting have you been doing?

I did a film called Just Wright that’s coming out starring Queen Latifah, myself, and Paula Patton. Sanaa Hamri is the director. She actually directed one of my videos, “Come Close,” so we got to reunite. I play an NBA ball player, which is fun. Also I’m in a film called Date Night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey and Mark Wahlberg. Working with Steve Carell and Tina Fey and all those people, [director] Shawn Levy, that’s the best. You just get to laugh and have fun. Even though I was playing the bad guy, it was such a great platform to be working with those people. The improv you have, the talent you have, and the fun you have — it was definitely one of my best filming experiences.

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Photo credit: Nabil