Common
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Only when we open our hearts up to thinking about what can we do, can we change the conditions that we see going on in reality... which is why I made the small indie film "Luv." In "Luv," my character, an ex-convict, takes his young nephew Woody under his wing and acts as a father figure, but he also exposes him to brutal aspects of humanity. I want to shine a light on the lack of role models for kids. I knew this from my own life, growing up. I never had role models who explained, “Hey, this is how you treat a woman: You open the door, you sit her down and pull her seat out, you act respectful and under control... but at the same time, be a man.”

Anytime you start feeling like you can’t make it... think about your ancestors. This is the advice my character in “Luv” gives Woody. But I follow it in my own life. When you do realize the ancestry you came from, it gives you empowerment. For me, hearing stories about Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King, Jr., motivated me. So did hearing about writers such as James Baldwin, Langston Hughes and Richard Wright. To know people have been through things and survived, especially when it's in your culture, you think, "Oh, man, I can do this. I can overcome this situation."

Rappers are teachers... and so are parents, artists, actors and construction workers. Today, we all have to set examples. I was taught by example. The first time I realized I could win a Grammy was as an adult, when I saw my friends the Roots. They beat out all of these big artists, and seeing them win made me feel like I could do it. I feel responsibility to be a good example for kids. I feel that responsibility first and foremost to the creator. And I feel it as a black man, a citizen of Chicago—and as a human being.

If there’s a monster inside, and he's not Elmo... take a breath and calm it down. I'm not walking perfect in the world. But I'm totally about having peace within yourself and letting that peace permeate to other people and affect their lives in a positive way.

The most powerful word in the human language is... love. The whole world is love. The thing is, you've got to know that you are loved. You've got to know your value and let that come out in your actions.

“Luv” opens in theaters January 18.

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