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Common’s ‘Letter to the Free’ Wins Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics

Desiree Navarro, Getty Images

Is Common quietly headed for EGOT status? After racking up an Emmy, the veteran rapper is only a Tony Award away from earning the coveted distinction.

The Academy Award-winning and Grammy-winning rapper’s “Letter to the Free,” which is featured on the score to Ava DuVernay’s critically-acclaimed documentary 13th, won an Emmy Award for for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics at the Creative Arts Emmys over the weekend (Sept. 9).

As per usual, Common was humble and gracious about the win, which also saw producer/pianist Robert Glasper and producer/drummer Karriem Wiggins win for their roles on the song.

“This is really for the people that are incarcerated,” he said during an intimate Instagram acceptance speech. “We believe and know that we can bring the love to the people that’s locked up. That’s what we are doing this for. This is gonna make me do more work. But hey, I’m celebrating too though.”

Common has been fighting for prison reform on his Hope & Redemption Prison Tour in which he teamed up with producer Scott Budnick, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and the California Endowment to tour four California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation prisons. 13th specifically explores the affects of mass incarceration in the United States following the abolishment of slavery, making a direct connection between the prison industrial complex and the disproportionate incarceration rates of black men to the old institution.

“Although I’m honored and excited beyond belief for this award, my motivation for doing this song was from the heart like it always is,” Common continued on Instagram. “This award is for all the incarcerated people in the prison system and for justice. In the words of the late great Phife, ‘I’ll never let a statue tell me how nice I am…’. We have more work to do and this is only the beginning. So please don’t think for 1 second that my passion for justice stops here.”

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