Let Love Have The Last Word
published: 24 /
Chicago-raised rap artist, Common, lays bare his spiritual growth in his sophomore book, ‘Let Love Have the Last Word’ in 'Raging Pages'.
Common, aka Lonnie Rashid Lynn, is an award-winning rap artist and actor, a political activist and public speaker. He grew up on the South Side of Chicago before relocating to Los Angeles and Brooklyn. He was raised by a single mother, an educator, who encouraged him to strive for and always maintain high standards.
His first book, 'One Day It'll All Make Sense' was also a memoir and a call to arms about taking action. Common's second book, 'Let Love Have the Last Word,' like his debut, has become a New York Times bestseller.
"It's not even like boxing or tennis. When you're on the stage by yourself, no hype men, just you and the microphone and your voice, the words in your head. There's no other opponent to defeat in the moment; you're just trying to express yourself freely," is but one of the passionate passages Common uses to describe his favourite art form, that of freestyle rapping.
While Common certainly chronicles his love of music this time around, it's not the major thrust. 'Let Love Have the Last Word', instead, features his feelings about love and the many forms it has taken thus far.
Common grew up feeling detached from his biological father; his parents divorced when he was very young. His father relocated to Denver, Colorado. Although they grew to know each other well in later years, Common was deeply affected by the initial absence. As such, he draws parallels between that strained relationship and the more immediate one with his daughter, Omoye. Because of his frenzied work scheduled and desire to become successful, he admits he spent too much time away from her as well.
So, it is that primary relationship that threads its way throughout this fast read. Common earnestly reflects on an early morning call from Omoye, while she was away in college. He recalled feeling uncomfortable during the call; she had had too much to drink, and as such, frankly confronted her dad about his absence. She would bring the topic up again at a family reunion. That said, part of Common's story revolves around coming to terms with his defensiveness and guilt as a parent and his ultimate ability to listen to those he loves, without trying "to fix" the problem.
While he expresses misgivings about those days, he maintains a strong sense of artistic identity: "I am no prophet. I am a poet from Chicago. I am one man who dreams and suffers from big ideas and wide vision in my mind, my head so high in the clouds."
That vision correlates well with the public image of Common. With humility, he takes stock of his hard-won status. That said, the magic of this book is how he speaks so frankly and critically about his own life. Common's overall vision intersects with his key relationships. Still, he not only brings his conversations with his father and Omoye to life without hyperbole. He underscores the many outside influences he's enjoyed from activists and artists, the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Miles Davis, Maya Angelou, without losing sight of his linear perspective.
Common is in demand, and time is always short. It seems like every minute of his touring schedule is accounted for when he's on the road. For instance, on the ride to the airport, he calls in a few "beats" to a colleague for a recording project when he's under deadline. "You're not going to have time to chill," his assistant, Aun, warns him. Then, she briefs him about his schedule: He'll only have time for a sit-down meal, "but that's if we check-in and drop our bags in the rooms and bounce all in, like, five minutes," she asserts.
As busy as Common is, he continually thinks about his daughter; how much he wishes to reconnect, but at the same time, the prospect seems overwhelming. Yet each chapter begins with a hopeful quote, i.e., "an unexamined life is not worth living" by Socrates.
"Being an artist, my creative schedule is not normal when compared to someone with a steady nine-to-five job or some professional career. For me, it's all about finding that space, that feeling where I have my freedom."
Common's sophomore book is a study in introspection and addressing life's loose ends. At every turn, the recording artist is physically and spiritually on the move. Forging lasting alliances with prisoners at San Quentin or rushing to the hospital to attend to his ill mother, where he sees her awakening and asking about his step-father, her second husband. For the first time, he puts that relationship in proper perspective. And by seeing that relationship in a brand-new light, he gains regard for and begins to yearn for a long-term commitment of his own.
Still, it's his relationship with his daughter that is most touching and reflective of his growth. After Omoye hears a lyric in one of Common's song, that was inspired by their phone calls, she speaks up and tells her father that he'd gotten it wrong. He'd been too hard on himself. He was a good father, she tells him. Other stories in the book don't get resolved as readily, but Common uses his spiritual influences and maturity gained through intensive therapy sessions to tackle such challenges.
'Let Love Have the Last Word' is a very relatable and likeable read; it's got a beautiful flow, is chock-full of wisdom and devoid of hubris. It doesn't touch on the industry or the rap genre as much as one might expect, but because Common is an excellent communicator, we gain access to his spiritual soul in positive, alternative ways.