Have you ever wondered how your favorite classic rap song was made? In Complex TV's Magnum Opus, these monumental records from our past are revisited. With in-depth interviews from the artists involved to first-hand accounts of respected rap peers and critics of the time, viewers get a blueprint of how the song was created, what impact it had, and how its legacy continues to live on. New episodes of Magnum Opus can be found exclusively on Complex TV.
Common has enjoyed immense success as a rapper, releasing 10 albums over the span of two decades. However, there is one record that has defined his career: his 2000 single "The Light." In Complex TV's latest episode of Magnum Opus, Common and other significant players behind the song's creation share the story of how this seminal record, from the classic album Like Water for Chocolate, came to be.
Common was in a transitional stage at the turn of century, having worked closely with fellow Chicago resident No I.D. on his first three albums. His fourth studio release, Like Chocolate for Water, saw Common embracing his organic side, a byproduct of his musical connection with J Dilla, The Roots, Erykah Badu, D'Angelo and several other acts who are closely tied to the rise of neo-soul.
"It was one of those songs that when you're really pouring out heart, it's just coming from your soul. I just had to let the truth come out," Common says of "The Light." "It's no way I could mess that beat up."
The song featured a drum sample taken from The Detroit Emeralds' "You're Getting a Little too Smart," as well as a lush vocal sample of Bobby Caldwell's "Open Your Eyes," which Dilla chopped perfectly. "The funny part about it, I never knew [Caldwell] was white until we sampled him," Common recalls. "I was like wow, this dude got so much soul. Soul is colorless."
The accompanying music video beautifully captured Common's tale of love. "You knew it was a really special song," Nzingha Stewart, the video's director, explains. "In tailoring it to him, I came up with this idea that was like, what would be super specific to him." It didn't hurt that Erkyah Badu, the inspiration for the song, appeared in the video, too.
Check out the full episode above, which includes commentary from Bobby Caldwell, Frank Nitt, James Poyser, Bob Power, and Complex's own Chief Content Officer Noah Callahan-Bever. Also, be sure to check out the last episode of Magnum Opus, featuring Mike Jones, Paul Wall, and Slim Thug breaking down their 2004 classic "Still Tippin'."