Common proved himself to be a master of poetry Friday night at the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium. MUSIC Matters, a student organization at U-M, held the concert as the final event in its three-part year-end festival.
Jibran Ahmed, MUSIC Matters vice president, said Common’s message aligns with that of his organization.
“The hope was that by bringing in Common, [it would] really allow us to engage with an artist who is so involved philanthropically,” Ahmed said.
Common gave an energized performance while he tried to empower the crowd.
“I’m always going to be a voice for the people,” Common said during the concert. “I stand with the people.”
He encouraged the crowd to do more than simply talk about problems on social media. He said they should vote and start organizations to educate the youth.
“The things that you want to change, change it yourself,” Common said.
Along with his songs, Common freestyle rapped about Ann Arbor and the crowd. He pulled Mariana Nagbe, the program manager for student affairs at U-M, onto the stage and began freestyle rapping about her.
Nagbe said she’s been listening to Common for a long time.
“I didn’t know he was rapping about me at first,” Nagbe said. “I was still trying to snap back into reality.”
John Dryden, who works in the U-M School of Business, said he’s been listening to Common since 2001. He said he is impressed by Common because he has managed to evolve over time but hasn’t strayed away from his roots.
“He’s always been tied to Chicago, he’s always had a social justice mission, but he’s always been a true hip-hop artist,” Dryden said. “He’s not sacrificing his artistic credibility trying to get a message out. He’s not sacrificing his message, in order to further his artistic credibility. He merges it all, and he does so really effectively.”
U-M freshman Sam Orley, said the concert went above his expectations.
“That’s how concerts should be, with that kind of enthusiasm and creativity,” Orley said.
Antwaun Stanley and Brendan Asante, with music collective, Video 7, opened the night. Many of the musicians who performed with them had roots at U-M.
“I feel like it is my personal duty to inspire, innovate and spread the gift of music to as many people as possible,” Asante said. ‘I’m grateful MUSIC Matters allows me to do that and I’m thankful. I’m blessed with a gift that I want to keep sharing.”
The first half of the act was composed of three singers and a seven-part band. In the second half a DJ came out with three freestyle rappers.
“They had a lot of energy and they seemed passionate about what they were doing,” Ilna Llmbardosenior at U-M said.