Common’s latest project, the new AMC series “Hell on Wheels” premiered last weekend. The show is AMC’s new Western series, and Common plays an ex-slave named Elam Ferguson who is working on the transcontinental railroad in Nebraska. In December, Common is expected to release his ninth studio album, “The Dreamer, The Believer”. The actor/rapper was interviewed by Time Out magazine about both, as well as his thoughts on politics, religion and materialism. Check out the excerpts below:

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What’d you learn from researching the role of a recently emancipated slave?

I learned that the relationship between black and white people wasn’t just all hatred. I learned there were some slave masters that weren’t treacherous. I had studied in elementary school about slavery, but it was a whole new understanding getting to read slave chronicles and do due diligence in the research of it.

In your memoir you write that, with Hollywood roles for thirtysomething black men, “You’re either bouncing a ball or busting a cap.” This must be a more fulfilling role, then?

Yeah, this is definitely the most fulfilling. When you look at the roles that black actors are afforded, some of them are just, like, the heavy guy or the muscle-in-the-street guy. But what was so interesting about the writing of Hell on Wheels is like, man, this guy, he’s a freed slave but just because I’m oppressed doesn’t mean that I’m not strong, just because I’ve been through one of the biggest hells that you can go through doesn’t mean that I’m not intelligent.

Your memoir has a very self-assured tone. You call Kanye West “a self-illuminating star,” and then say, “I know that I am such a star and always was.” There’s a pretty strong sense of ego in these pages.

Nah, I would call it belief, man. If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will? If I don’t believe that I’m, like, the greatest MC, then how can I make other people believe in that? You have to be able to believe in yourself and what you do as an artist. That doesn’t mean you’re better than anybody else just because you might be the greatest painter ever. That doesn’t make you a better human being than somebody else. You’ll never hear me say, man, I’m a better person than you.

Are you the best MC?

Yes. And if I didn’t say that to you, then I would ask of you to maybe hang up on me.

Read more excerpts here:

Common in Documentary about Music’s Healing Power [VIDEO]

Common Stays Down To Earth In “Blue Sky” [NEW VIDEO]

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