'Black America Again' is due to release Sept. 30
Credit: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

When Common, 44, returned to the studio to record his 11th studio LP, Black America Again, out Sept. 30, the Grammy- and Oscar-winning artist had only three guiding principles: “God, love, and blackness.”

With those ideas in place, the rapper got a top roster of collaborators (Anderson .Paak, Stevie Wonder, drummer Kariem Riggins, who helmed the production, and more) for an album that fuses jazz and soul arrangements with lyrics about the black experience in America. “There’s so much depth to blackness,” Common says. “There’s a freedom to it, there’s a rawness to it, and a truth to it. This music was inspiring me to express those things.”

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The process, he says, is two-fold in its benefit. “I never want to write songs that just offer the problem,” he says. “I want to do my best to give some solutions. Music can give us a mirror to ourselves, it can make you think, ‘Dang, I didn’t think about it from that perspective.’ That’s the therapy.”

And 16 years after his groundbreaking sociopolitical album Like Water for Chocolate, Common says he is also still hoping to ignite change. “I really want to inspire you to reach within yourself to be that greatest being you can be,” he says. “When you have an opportunity to speak to the multitudes, why not plant the seeds of change and good vibrations?”