Looking at Water Is Rapper Common’s Favorite Medication

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

Name: Common
Age: 38
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Occupation: Actor/rapper. He'll be sitting down with journalist Ben Greenman as part of the eleventh annual New Yorker Festival on Saturday, October 2, at 10 p.m. at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

Who's your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
Basquiat. I just saw his documentary and it was inspirational. As an artist he depicts what New York is about: creativity and raw talent.

What's the best meal you've eaten in New York?
At, Café Habana, the camarones al ajillo: shrimp with yellow rice and red beans and this corn with cheese and mayonnaise on it, and chile pepper.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I write, read, act, work out, and create.

What was your first job in New York?
I'm from Chicago, so my first job was actually coming to New York to sign my record contract.

What's the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Fela! I thought it was incredible. It took me back, because I used to listen to Fela a lot. In fact, I did an album called Like Water For Chocolate that came out in 2000, and I had a song that was a tribute to him, I was just heavy into him so much.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
Yes. I will say that New York has the most creative [panhandlers], and the boldest.

What's your drink?
Sangria.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
Never. I actually go to restaurants in New York so much that I repeat the same places over and over. I also have a chef that cooks incredibly.

What's your favorite medication?
Writing, and looking at water.

What's hanging above your sofa?
My apartment is pretty bare right now, but I have a picture of a woman named Assata Shakur. She was a Black Panther and a revolutionary from the late sixties and early seventies and is now in exile in Cuba. It's a really strong image.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
If you go to the actual barbershop, you shouldn't be spending over $100. I really value the skills of barbers and I always liked going to the barbershop and hanging out. That's a man's sacred place, you need that dialogue and that experience. I've still gotta say that I'm lazy when it comes to cleaning up around the house: I use paper plates and stuff, and I don't like having too much work to do when I get up in the morning, so I don't want to have to do a lot of shaving. I'm looking to come out with a line of shaving products, though, so I gotta get into it at some point. I'd like to put out a gentleman's line especially for bald guys, and guys that like to be groomed.

When's bedtime?
When there's absolutely nothing else to do that's fun, productive and business-wise.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
The recent-old. I miss Virgin Records, and I miss the MTV TRL window.

What do you think of Donald Trump?
I don't really think about Donald Trump, but when I do I just think he's a rich guy that's getting even richer.

What do you hate most about living in New York?
The way cab drivers start and stop so much [in traffic]. Sometimes I get a little dizzy.

Who is your mortal enemy?
Ignorance.

When's the last time you drove a car?
Last night, but I've never driven in New York.

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
My show fees went down.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
Times.

Where do you go to be alone?
Besides my home, I like a little tea spot close to Electric Lady Studios.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
Definitely their "Don't fuck with me" attitude. And the accent.