Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.
(born March 13 1972
), better known by his stage name Common
(and previously known as Common Sense
), is an American hip hop
artist and actor
Common debuted in 1992 with the album Can I Borrow a Dollar? and maintained a significant underground following into the late 90s, after which he gained notable mainstream success through his work with the Soulquarians. His first major label album, Like Water for Chocolate, received widespread critical acclaim and moderate commercial success. Its popularity was matched by 2005's Be, which was nominated in the 2006 Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album. Common was awarded his second Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, for "Southside" (featuring Kanye West) (from Finding Forever), his first Grammy was awarded in 2003 for Best R&B Song for "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)" with Erykah Badu. His best-of album Thisisme Then was released on November 27, 2007. Common has also intiated a burgeoning acting career, starring significant roles in such films as Smokin' Aces, Street Kings, American Gangster, and Wanted.
Common was born in Chicago
, where he was raised, the son of educator Ann Hines and former ABA basketball
player turned youth counselor Lonnie Lynn
. Common's parents divorced when he was six years old, resulting in his father moving to Denver, Colorado
. This left Common to be raised by his mother, but his father remained active in his life and even landed Common a job with the Chicago Bulls
during his teen years. While a student at Luther High School South
in Chicago, Common also formed C.D.R., a rap trio
that opened for acts such as N.W.A.
and Big Daddy Kane
. Common later left this group when he attended Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, FL
to study business administration
Common dropped out of Florida A&M University and was featured in the Unsigned Hype
column of The Source
magazine after a friend sent in a tape of Common rapping. Under the stage name Common Sense, he debuted in 1992 with the single "Take It EZ
" followed by the album, Can I Borrow a Dollar?
With the 1994 release of Resurrection, Common achieved a much larger degree of critical acclaim, which extended beyond Chicago natives. The album sold relatively well and received a strong positive reaction among alternative and underground hip-hop fans at the time. Resurrection was Common's last album produced almost entirely by his long-time production partner, No I.D., who was also the then-mentor of a young Kanye West.
Feud with Westside Connection
The song "I Used to Love H.E.R.
" from Resurrection
ignited a feud with West Coast rap group Westside Connection
. The lyrics of the song criticized the path hip-hop music was taking and was interpreted by some as directing blame towards the popularity of West Coast Gangsta rap
. Westside Connection first responded with the 1995 song Westside Slaughterhouse, with the lyrics "Used to love H.E.R. mad cause I fucked her". Westside Connection
recorded tracks venting their issues with rival East Coast rappers (see East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry
). Westside Slaughterhouse also mentioned Common by name, prompting the rapper to respond with the scathing Pete Rock
-produced attack song "The Bitch in Yoo
". Common and Westside Connection
continued to insult each other back and forth before finally meeting with Louis Farrakhan
and setting aside their dispute. Following the popularity of Resurrection
, Common Sense
was sued by a Los Angeles
band with the same name, and was forced to shorten his moniker to simply Common.
One Day It'll All Make Sense
Initially scheduled for an October 1996 release, Common finally released his third album, One Day It'll All Make Sense
, in September 1997. The album took a total of two years to complete and included collaborations with artists such as Lauryn Hill
, De La Soul
, Black Thought
, Chantay Savage
, and ?uestlove
- a future fellow member of the Soulquarians
outfit. The album, which made a point of eschewing any gangsterism (in response to questions about his musical integrity), was critically acclaimed and led to a major label
contract with MCA Records
. In addition to releasing One Day
, Common's first child, daughter Omoye Assata Lynn, was born shortly after the release of the album.
As documented by Hip hop journalist, Raquel Cepeda, in the liner notes for the album, this event had a profound spiritual and mental effect on Common and enabled him to grow musically while becoming more responsible as an artist. She writes:
- Rashid found out that he was going to become a daddy in about 8 months. Stunned and confused, Rashid had life altering decisions to make with his girlfriend, Kim Jones. The situation led to the composition of his favourite cut on One Day... that offers a male slant on abortion. "Retrospect for Life", produced by James Poyser, and No I.D. featuring Lauryn Hill (who was due on the same day as Rashid's girlfriend), is the song that is the driving force behind the project. Rashid listens to "Retrospect for Life", today at the mastering session geeked, as if it were for the first time. He tells me as we listen to L-Boogie wail the chorus, "when I listen to the song now, I think about how precious her (Omoye's) life is".
Common addresses family ethics several times on One Day..., and the album sleeve is decorated with old family photos, illustrating the rapper's childhood, as well a quote from Corinthians 13:12, which summarizes the path to manhood:
- When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
Following One Day...
, Common signed a major label record deal with MCA Records
and relocated from Chicago to New York City
in 1999. He began recording almost exclusively with a loose collective of musicians and artists (dubbed the "Soulquarians
" by central figure ?uestlove
) throughout 1999, and made a few sporadic guest appearances on The Roots
' Things Fall Apart
, and the Rawkus Records
compilation, Soundbombing 2
In 2000, his fourth album, Like Water for Chocolate, was released to mass critical acclaim. Executive produced by ?uestlove and featuring significant contributions by J Dilla, (who helmed all but one track - the DJ Premier-produced track "The 6th Sense"), Like Water for Chocolate transpired to be a considerable commercial breakthrough for Common, earning the rapper his first gold record, and greatly expanding his fanbase among critics and listeners alike.
This album saw Common exploring themes (musically and lyrically), which were uncommon for a Hip hop record, as he does on the song "Time Travelin' (A Tribute To Fela)"; a homage to Nigerian music legend, and political activist Fela Kuti. The most popular single from the album, "The Light", was nominated for a Grammy Award. Around this time, Common began dating fellow Soulquarian Erykah Badu.
The rapper's next album, Electric Circus, featured more experimental work with the Soulquarians, as well as contributions from The Neptunes and Prince. The album was something of a departure from Common's previous releases (and indeed from Hip hop music in general), and featured Common rapping over electric rock music, and electronica-influenced tracks. It received polarizing reviews, with many critics praising it as a musical tour de force and a visionary expansion of the Hip hop template, while others criticized it for veering too far from accessibility and viewing Common's role as secondary to the musicianship of the Soulquarians (it should be noted that Common has himself stated that it was his intention at the time to make an atypical hip hop record).
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the album did not sell as well as Like Water For Chocolate, with many longtime fans being turned off by its eclectic sound, and the album suffering from a lack of promotion due to MCA's absorption by Geffen Records. In 2003, Common won his first Grammy for his appearance on Erykah Badu's "Love of My life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)", a song he performed with Badu for the soundtrack to the movie Brown Sugar. His romantic relationship with Badu, however, ended that same year.
G.O.O.D. Music Era
In early 2004, Common made an appearance on fellow Chicagoan Kanye West's multi-platinum debut album, The College Dropout
(on the song "Get Em High"), and announced his signing to West's then-newfound label GOOD Music
. West had been a longtime fan of Common's and the two even participated in a friendly on-air MC battle, where West took jabs at his lyrical idol for "going soft" and wearing crochet pants (as he does for his appearance in the video for the Mary J. Blige
song "Dance for Me
"). The pair worked together on Common's next album, Be
, almost entirely produced by Kanye West, with some help from Common's longtime collaborator the late James Yancey (J Dilla) - also a favorite of West's. The album was released in May 2005, and performed very well, boosted by Kanye's involvement and the singles "The Corner
", and "Go
earned Common the second gold record of his career, with sales topping out at around 800,000. The Source
magazine gave it a near perfect 4.5 mic rating, XXL
magazine gave it their highest rating of "XXL", and AllHipHop gave the album 5 stars. The album was also nominated for four Grammy Awards in 2006.
Common's seventh and most recent LP is titled Finding Forever. For this album, he continued his work with Kanye West, as well as other producers such as will.i.am, Devo Springsteen and Karriem Riggins, as well as the only J. Dilla-produced track, "So Far To Go". The album features guest spots from artists such as Dwele, Bilal, D'Angelo, and UK pop starlet Lily Allen. The album was released on July 31st. The first single from the album was "The People" b/w "The Game". West has already predicted that Finding Forever will win the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. On July 31, 2007, Common performed a free concert in Santa Monica, California on the 3rd Street Promenade to promote the release of Finding Forever. Common explained to the audience that the title "Finding Forever" represented his quest to find an eternal place in hip-hop and also his wishes to be an artist for the rest of his life. The album debuted at #1 on the national Billboard 200 charts.
In a recent interview (circa August 30, 2007) with XXL, rapper Q-Tip of the group A Tribe Called Quest stated that he and Common were forming a group called The Standard. He says the group will head into the studio in a few weeks to record an album. Q-Tip himself will handle the majority of the production on the album but it will also feature some productions by Kanye West.
Common's 8th studio album was to be titled Invincible Summer, but he announced at a Temple University concert that he would change it to Universal Mind Control and will reportedly be released in early November.
Producer No I.D. has stated that he and Kanye West will be producing Common's next album, due in 2009.
Common has a daughter, Omoye Assata Lynn (born 1997). Since childhood, he was a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ
in Chicago led by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright
. Following the controversy over one of Wright's sermons
, Common criticized the American news media's coverage of the incident as having "an agenda". He dated Erykah Badu
from 2000 - around 2003. Dating rumors have always swirled around Common- from Alicia Keys
to actress Taraji P. Henson
who played alongside Common and Alicia Keys
in Smokin' Aces. Common played the role of Alicia Keys
's boyfriend in the music video "Like You'll Never See Me Again" and his own music video "I Want You", making speculations even stronger.
With both artists hailing from the Great Lakes region of the United States (Chicago and Detroit, respectively), Common and J Dilla established their chemistry early on. Both became members of the Soulquarians collective, and collaborated on numerous projects together, even placing one song, "Thelonius", on both the Slum Village album Fantastic, Vol. 2, and Common's Like Water for Chocolate. As Dilla's health began to decline from the effects of Lupus Nephritis, he relocated to Los Angeles for treatment, and asked Common to make the move with him as a roommate. Dilla would lose his battle with the rare disease, but his asking of Common to move in with him during his darkest hour is testament of a friendship between the two that transcended rap music, or the music industry. As a result, Common is a friend of the Yancey Family, particularly with J Dilla's mother, Maureen Yancey. He is currently dating Serena Williams.
In 2006, Common was a model for photos of The Gap
's fall season collection, appearing on posters in stores. Later that year, he performed in The Gap's "Holiday In Your Hood" themed Peace Love Gap.
In February 2007, Common signed a deal with New Era to promote their new line of Layers fitted caps. Common also stars in a television commercial for the 2008 Lincoln Navigator. He appears in NBA 2k7
in Streetball mode.
As of the 29th of September 2008 Common was instrumental in bridging the trans-atlantic gap by signing UK's Mr Wong and J2K to Kanye Wests Getting Out Our Dreams recording outfit. Common met the pair during his tour in the UK earlier on in the year. It is speculated that the deal is not only to bring the UK and US hip hop genres together but that to rival Syco Music's cross atlantic success with Leona Lewis.
Common previously maintained a vegan diet and is a supporter of animal rights
. He recently appeared in a print advertisement for PETA titled "Think Before You Eat". Common is also part of the "Knowing Is Beautiful" movement which supports HIV
awareness. He is featured in the video for "Yes We Can
," a song in support of the candidacy of Barack Obama
, which made its debut on the internet on February 2nd, 2008. Common stopped using "'nigger'" and he has pledged to stop using anti-gay
lyrics in his music.
Following the release of Be
in 2005, several mixed-race artists from the UK hip-hop scene took exception to Common's comments about interracial relationships on the song "Real People", and in an interview. The situation started out with an article from UK's Touch magazine, in which he stated "When you see dreadlocked dudes with white girls that’s like they going against what the dreadlock’s purpose was." Yungun
, Doc Brown
and Rising Son
recorded a track over an instrumental version of "The Corner" named "Dear Common (The Corner Dub)". Common states that he has heard of the track but never actually taken the time to listen to it, and has not retaliated in song.
In 2003, Common appeared on the popular American UPN sitcom Girlfriends
. In the episode "Take This Poem and Call Me In The Morning", he appeared as Omar, a slam poet
who competes with fellow poet Sivad (played by Saul Williams
) for the affection of Lynn Searcy (played by Persia White
). He also had a cameo appearance on an episode of UPN's One on One
, where he played a drama class instructor named Darius. He also made an appearance on the NBC show "Scrubs
". In 2007, Common appeared with Ben Affleck
, Jeremy Piven
, and Alicia Keys
in the crime film Smokin' Aces
. He made his big screen debut as villainous Mob enforcer
Sir Ivy. He appeared alongside Denzel Washington
, Russell Crowe
, The RZA
in the 2007 crime thriller American Gangster
. On 20 January 2007
, one week before the opening of Smokin Aces
, he appeared in a Saturday Night Live
sketch as himself. The show's host was Piven, his Aces
co-star. In 2008, he starred in the film adaptation of the comic book Wanted
alongside Morgan Freeman
and Angelina Jolie
; and was cast as the Green Lantern
/John Stewart in the live adaptaton of The Justice League
. Common also appeared in the movie Street Kings
alongside Keanu Reeves
, Hugh Laurie
, and Forest Whitaker
. He will also appear in Terminator Salvation
, scheduled for release in 2009.
Awards and nominations
- BET Awards
- 2006: Best Male Hip-Hop Artist, Nominated
- 2003: Video of the Year ("Love of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop)"), Won
- 2003: Viewer's Choice ("Love of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop)"), Nominated
- 2003: Best Collaboration ("Love of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop)"), Nominated
- BET Hip Hop Awards
- 2006: Element Award- Lyricist of the Year, Won
- 2006: Hip-Hop Video of the Year ("Testify"), Nominated
- 2007: Lyricist of the Year, Won
- 2007: CD of the Year: "Finding Forever", Won
- 2007: Best Hip Hop Video: "The People", Nominated
- 2007: Best Live Performance, Nominated
- 2007: MVP Of The Year, Nominated
- Black Reel Awards
- 2003: Best Film Song ("Love of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop)"), Won
- Grammy Awards
- 2008: Best Rap Performance by Duo or Group ("Southside"), Won
- 2008: Best Rap Album (Finding Forever), Nominated
- 2008: Best Rap Solo Performance ("The People"), Nominated
- 2006: Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group ("The Corner"), Nominated
- 2006: Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("They Say"), Nominated
- 2006: Best Rap Album (Be), Nominated
- 2006: Best Rap Solo Performance ("Testify"), Nominated
- 2003: Best Song Written for a Motion Picture/Television Movie ("Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)"), Nominated
- 2003: Best R&B Song ("Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)"), Won
- 2003: Best Urban/Alternative Performance ("Love of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop)"), Nominated
- 2001: Best Rap Solo Performance ("The Light"), Nominated
- Image Awards
- 2006: Outstanding Music Video ("Testify"), Nominated
- 2006: Outstanding Male Artist, Nominated
- 2003: Outstanding Duo or Group ("Love of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop)"), Nominated
- 2003: Outstanding Song ("Love of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop)"), Nominated
- 2003: Outstanding Music Video ("Love of My Life (Ode to Hip-Hop)"), Nominated
- MTV Video Music Awards
- Soul Train Awards
- 2006: Best R&B/Soul Single by a Duo or Group ("Supastar"), Nominated
- 2006: Best Music Video ("Testify"), Nominated
- Vibe Awards
- 2005: Reelest Video ("The Corner"), Nominated