If you’re Gen Xer, you might primarily think of multi-faceted Chicago hip hop artist Common as an underground, profound alternative MC who came up under the moniker Common Sense. If you’re a millennial, you might first associate him with Kanye West, No I.D., and his breakout mainstream and award-winning LPs of the mid-00s. And if you’re apart of Gen Z, you might best know Common for roles in films like John Wick, Selma, The Hate U Give, or Barbershop, in addition to commercials, award shows, activist causes, and more. Common is, undoubtedly, all of these things and more, with an impressive, evolutionary, and trailblazing career that has spanned over 25 years. At his core though, a musician is what Common has always remained primarily, and in support of his upcoming twelfth full-length, Let Love, we’re thrilled to see him make time in his busy schedule to tour, and doubly thrilled to see him make a long-overdue return to Nashville tonight, Aug. 22 for a headlining appearance at The Ryman, with support from collaborator and buzzy up and comer Maimouna Youssef, a.k.a. Mumu Fresh. Guaranteed to be one of the year’s best most essential events for fans of real deal hip hop, tickets are still available right here while they last! Read on for more about the show.
Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, rapper, actor, writer, and philanthropist Common has, since first hitting the underground scene in the early ’90s and breaking into the mainstream a decade later, become known as one of the most profound, important, substantive, and essential creative voices in hip hop. Initially known as Common Sense, the MC gained regional buzz from the jump with his 1992 debut LP, Can I Borrow a Dollar?, remaining a fixture of the alternative and underground hip hop scene of the ’90s, linking up with fellow performers like The Roots, De La Soul, Lauryn Hill, and Q-Tip, all who, like Common, valued the art of the craft and lyrical substance at a time when mainstream hip hop had largely shifted to favor gangsta rap (short-lived New York supergroup/collective Soulquarians, of which Common and some of the aforementioned performers were apart of, largely served as an artistic anthesis to the gangsta rap trend). Inking a major label deal at the turn of the millennium, Common’s fourth LP and MCA Records debut, Like Water for Chocolate, arrived in 2000, making a broader mainstream splash, earning the rapper his first gold record and setting him down a path for bigger commercial and critical accolades throughout the decade.
2005’s Be, produced entirely by a then-emerging, young Kanye West (also native to Chicago, and a mentee of Common’s long-time producer and collaborator No I.D.) proved the be the rapper’s most commercially successful and critically-beloved effort to date, earning universal acclaim and four Grammy nominations, with similar buzz carrying forward to 2007 followup Finding Forever. That same year, Common made his big screen debut acting in a pair of films, Smokin’ Aces and American Gangster, more or less setting a template for the numbers genre films (Wanted, Suicide Squad, John Wick: Chapter 2) and more more dramatic faire (Selma, The Tale, The Hate U Give) that has followed, cementing his on-screen legacy just as firmly as his musical one over the past decade (and even landing him both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for his song “Glory” from Selma). In addition to several more fantastic full-lengths in recent years, regularly re-teaming the rapper with No I.D., and flexing a wise, mature, and lyrically honed side he’s been crafting from the start, including a forthcoming Let Love, which ties into a new memoir, and aside from his flourishing film and television work, Common has found time for philanthropy, modeling, activism, authoring poetry and memoirs, rubbing shoulders with our former president, and generally becoming one of hip hop, and especially Chicago hip hop’s most esteemed and artistic forces. With his busy schedule, Common doesn’t play a lot of shows in general these days, much less make it to Nashville, so any fan of true, old school hip hop will want to make this a priority!
Maimouna Youssef, who also performs under the stage name Mumu Fresh, might have found broader mainstream attention after appearing on a stunning episode of NPR’s Tiny Desk last year with Common, Robert Glasper, Karriem Riggins, Black Thought, and DJ Dummy, but she’s hardly a newcomer, having long been an established force in music, acting, and activism. Born and raised in Baltimore and later Philadelphia in a large artistic family, and an attendee of DC’s prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Youssef rose to prominence as a supporting vocalist for celebrated artists like The Roots, Erykah Badu, and Common, even earning a Grammy nomination for her contribution to The Roots’ “Don’t Feel Right” in 2007 (The Roots’ Black Thought, notably, gave her the Mumu Fresh stage name). Bridging the gap between gospel, jazz, soul, and hip hop (she learned to rap at a young age, after being brought on more traditional musical works), Maimouna has also graced the stage with performers like Lauryn Hill, Ed Sheeran, D’Angelo, Bruno Mars, and Nas and her on-screen credits include appearances in Queen Sugar, Being Mary Jane, Girls Trip, and Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. Like Common, Youssef has already leveraged his position as an artist to champion philanthropic causes and activism, both community and globally focused, and has already become a celebrated underground fixture. While she might not yet be a household name, with the boundless talent and musical pedigree Maimouna Youssef has already honed over the past decade, she seems primed to break out in a major way at any moment- don’t sleep on her set!
Common and Maimouna Youssef will perform tonight, Aug. 22 at The Ryman Auditorium. The show is all ages, begins at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are available to purchase for $39.75-84.75.