Rapper and movie star delivers urgent rhymes on 'Black America Again'

It's possible that in 2017 a lot of people know Common more for his acting roles than his music (see his turns in films like “American Gangster,” “Terminator Salvation” and “Selma,” and also in the TV series “Hell on Wheels”), but hip-hop is where he made a name for himself, and on 2016 album Black America Again, the rapper's music sounds as impassioned and vital as it did when he debuted with Can I Borrow a Dollar? in 1992.

Common has said that Ta Nehisi-Coates' memoir “Between the World and Me” inspired him to get back to writing, and on the title track of Black America Again, the rapper showcases some of his best lyric-writing in a highlight-strewn career. “The new plantation, mass incarceration/Instead of educate, they'd rather convict the kids/As dirty as the water in Flint, the system is,” he spits, enunciating every syllable, refusing to let a word go by unheard.

Between verses, a chopped sample of James Brown serves as the hook (“One way of solving a lot of problems that we've got is letting a person feel that they're important,” Brown says), and none other than Stevie Wonder caps off the track, singing, “We are rewriting the black American story.” If it's being rewritten, Common wants to be there, pen in hand.