Common Denominator

Q: What do the movie American Gangster, second-place pizza, and sweater vests have in common?A: Common!

In American Gangster and
Smokin' Aces, you play a right-hand man. When do you get to
be the
[Laughs] At this point as a
new actor, I'm taking the roles that allow me to grow, and I'm not taking on too
much. But I am ready to be the leading

You're one of three
rappers in the cast. Is branching off outside of hip-hop the only way to pay the
upkeep on a Bentley these days?

Every individual has
their path. I don't care if you rap, it doesn't mean you'll be a good actor. If
I try a singing career and I can't sing, it ain't gonna work. People have to
find things that fit them and work well with them. For me, it's about building a
legacy and expressing myself as an artist and continuing to build a platform for
me to make change in the world.

How come you
didn't get to express yourself on the American Gangster

Originally it was brought up, but obviously
once Jay-Z wanted to go on this thing, I think they decided to follow through
with that. I don't know why it didn't come together. It just

Your shows used to be full of "coffee shop chicks and
white dudes." Has that changed any?

Actually it has
changed. Along with the coffee shop ladies and the white cats, it's a lot of
mainstream people. It's multicultural, and it's not just limited to the artsy
crowd. There's people that shop at Saks 5th Avenue and in the

And the

[Laughs] Yeah, the Gap!

Level with us: How many outfits from the Gap
do you actually have in your

[Laughs] I've got a nice
amount. They broke me off with some nice ones. I also make sure my daughter has
what she needs. She loves the Gap's

Speaking of white guys, can you
explain why John Mayer, who might be the whitest guy in recorded history, has
been so embraced by hip-hop?

I think that's what's
fresh. Soul is about being in tune with who you are and not being scared to
express that. John Mayer's blessed with gifts as a musician—he's an artist, and
he's blessed with a soulful sound. He's not tryin' to be anyone but him, and
people respect that. I respect that. You don't have to be a certain color for me
to love and respect you. It's just about being

Agreed. So how come so many rappers are
spitting other guys' rhymes?

I've never [used] anybody
else's lyrics, but I've written some for people. It's fun for me, because I get
to live through them. It's almost like being a character. I wrote for Will Smith
before, and it was like I get to be Will Smith and tell his

Cubs or White Sox?

The White Sox. I'm from the South

But now that you're living in New York,
who has better pizza?

Chicago, baby! Come on. I love this spot called Giordano's. They have the best
deep-dish pizza. It's amazing.

So a draw, then.
One last thing—did you ever end up on the wrong side of one of Denzel's

[Laughs] No, not really.
I did get a bucket to the shin. I still got a mark on my leg from a scene where
Denzel was smacking this bucket around. It's cool, though. I mean, I'll always
remember that mark for the rest of my life.