In a particularly heartfelt piece, Common remembers how he came to know Maya Angelou, whom the rapper says he’d loved since he read her poem “Still I Rise” in the second grade. Word of warning: Grab the tissues before you click ahead.
What had happened was the poet we booked to perform [at a charity event] dropped out last minute so my mother said, “I’m gonna try to get in touch with Dr. Maya Angelou.” I said, “Ma, are you crazy? Maya Angelou? How do you think we’re gonna get one of the greatest beings that ever graced this earth last minute? She doesn’t know who Common is.”
Well, to this day I don’t know if she had ever heard of Common before the call was made but somehow through God’s thread she said she would like to meet with me before she decided if she would do the event. So here I am headed to Harlem to meet her at her apartment, just got my hair cut, heart beating, I walk into her beautiful space that smelled like integrity, art, generosity, love, hope, inspiration, honesty, and home. We would sit for two and a half hours talking about writing, my daughter, San Francisco, and Tupac. And oh yeah, Paul Robeson.
The next night she did her thing at the event and embraced me as a young writer-artist, an important voice in hip hop and even flirted with me. Now that really made me feel special.
The Daily Beast essay also describes Common and Angelou’s lasting friendship — the two met for birthday parties and dinners throughout years — as well as his reaction on the day she died last week. At the end, the Hell on Wheels star concludes, “I recognize that she will never be lost.”