Common Recalls the Pain of Break Up with Erykah Badu: 'It Was Hard to Eat'

"That was my first love where you're just open and floating," the star tells PEOPLE of his early '00s romance with the neo-soul singer

2003 Essence Awards - Show
Photo: M. Caulfield/WireImage

Common is no stranger to having his heart broken.

On the heels of his revealing new memoir Let Love Have the Last Word, the rapper, actor and activist, 47, opens up to PEOPLE in this week’s issue, delving into his many romantic ups and downs—and what he’s learned from them.

“Some of the hardest work I’ve done on myself has been after breakups,” says the star. In the early ’00s he famously dated neo-soul singer Erykah Badu, whom he teamed with on hit singles “The Light” and “Love of My Life.” It was a relationship he’ll never forget.

“With Erykah Badu, that was my first love where you’re just open and floating,” he says of the singer he reportedly dated for two years prior to their split in 2002. “When we split, I was 27 or 28. I was in a haze, just going through the motions. It was hard to eat.”

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno - Erykah Badu
Common and Erykah Badu in 2002. Kevin Winter/Getty

Still he says, “It wasn’t her fault, the relationship just didn’t go forward.” Despite that heartache, he says a subsequent breakup was nearly just as demoralizing.

“I was in another breakup after that that was heavy,” he says without specifying which relationship. “That one honestly is what sent me to therapy.”

Years after Badu he would famously date tennis star Serena Williams, and even once told Ellen that he planned to marry her. The two broke up in 2010 after two years together.

"Just Wright" Wrap Party
Serena Williams and Common in 2009. Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Most recently he dated political analyst Angela Rye. The two went their separate ways in 2018, but have recently been spotted hanging out again.

At this stage in his life, and after years of helpful therapy, Common says he’s ready for lasting love.

“Talking about my intimacy avoidance and love addiction was an “aha” moment for me,” he says of traits he’s learned about himself in therapy. “The more you talk, the more you see the patterns you created for yourself.”

He adds, “I’m open to a relationship now. I know how to communicate like an adult now. I want to be the best partner I can be.”

For more on Common’s new book and journey to happiness, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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