If rap was Harlem, I be James Baldwin
James Baldwin was a gay African-American novelist, playwright and poet from Harlem who became disillusioned with the racism in the US and moved to Paris to escape that life
Most simply, Common is saying that he towers over the rap game as its most successful native son, much as James Baldwin did to Harlem.
He may also be referencing Baldwin’s exile in Paris, saying that he must get away from rap in order to realize his full potential as an artist.
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