Rapper turned actor/producer Common is on a media warpath this year. He signed a deal with cable network Showtime two months ago, to produce a coming-of-age tale set in Chicago, dealing with racial issues and growing up African American. Now, the mogul has signed a first-look deal with HBO which entitles the cable powerhouse the rights to future projects, produced by his company Freedom Road Productions.
Common is no stranger to the film industry, having expanded his career to include acting in 2002 – his first role was in the Taye Diggs romantic comedy Brown Sugar. Never straying too far from hip hop though, Common continued to make albums throughout the last decade, culminating in his number 1 Finding Forever in 2007. What does the HBO deal mean though?
The hip hop-star-turned-mogul narrative is a popular one, with superstars like Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Kanye West being the most notable of the rappers turned businessmen. But none of them have quite succeeded in carving out a path in the film industry, even if 50 cent has tried before (the jury’s still out about his current TV show, Power). One wonders if Common picked up some tips from his co-star in the 2010 film Just Wright, Queen Latifah. Either way, usually, the rapper-turned-actor story is one of folly, but it does succeed when the proponent is a thoughtful and intelligent artist who knows how to tell stories in their music. That’s a skill that tends to translate into the film world. The same in the opposite direction, Childish Gambino anyone?
Common has been in the media a lot recently, what with his Showtime deal, his shots at media integrity, and now with the 2-year HBO signing, and has made some salient and interesting points. The faith shown by HBO is an indication of the mans talent for story-telling, something a lot of us already knew, and can now be vindicated with one of the most discerning television networks recognizing and fostering his talents. Nothing has been announced yet regarding the Freedom Road Productions first project, but keep your eyes peeled as I’m sure, if nothing else, it will be interesting, just like Common’s music.