He says before making his ninth album, "The Dreamer, the Believer," he was at a low point musically.
"I hadn't figured out what I was going to do, what label I was going to work with," he said. "I wasn't inspired."
Common had major success with 2005's "Be" and "Finding Forever," which came two years later. The albums reached gold status and each earned multiple Grammy nominations, including a win for best rap performance by a duo or group for "Southside" with Kanye West. Both albums were mainly produced by West.
But 2008's "Universal Mind Control," produced by the Neptunes, was a commercial disappointment, only selling 245,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan; the CD, however, did earn a Grammy nomination for best rap album.
But Common parted ways with Universal Music, where he's released five of his nine albums.
Now, on Warner Bros. Records, the rapper said he's got his mojo back, mainly thanks to producer and longtime friend No I.D.
"He was willing to be like, `Yo, let's go! Let's get it. Let's go get on this hip-hop,"' Common recalled. "So I think that meant a lot to me and from there we just continued to grow."
The album, released Tuesday, features Nas, Maya Angelou, John Legend and Makeba Riddick. The 39-year-old says the disc embarks on "real, traditional, new hip-hop."