While talking to Common, I can see the reason why he has gained the recognition and respect in the Hip-Hop and entertainment game from jump street. From his greeting of ‘Hey Eleanor, how you doin’ up until the end of our conversation, the intelligence and down to earth persona draws me in and I am impressed with the calm, but giant confidence that makes you want to learn more about this Grammy award winning socially conscious lyricist, songwriter, author and actor whose career spans about 19 years.
Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, Lonnie Rashid Lynn’s marriage to music came early on while attending grammar school and taking the required music classes. “I loved Hip-Hop and I was into Hip-Hop as a fan of it. I never tried to play instruments heavy. Once I wrote my first rap, I felt like it was something that I loved to do and wanted to do and that I could contribute to that musically and really be an artist as an MC. And through writing, I wanted to learn more about music,” said Common.
By the time he reached high school, Common had already been entertaining his classmates by rhyming out loud in class. After graduating, he enrolled in Florida A&M University, where he majored in Business Administration. But there was always that pull and drive to do what was in his heart, and eventually he paid more serious attention to his true calling in life, with some help from watching one of the biggest and most influential entertainers in the world. “I was there for two years and it was just the dream. I had big dreams of being an artist and an MC. Michael Jackson, point blank, was one of the people that made me wanna be great in life. Just seeing him shine and the type of person he was. I knew that as well as I was doing in school, I still felt like there was something else that I needed to be doing and I was most happy with music,” Common explained.
Then it was on. Common began making a serious underground moves and not too long afterwards he created a commercial buzz for himself after completing a demo in 1991 and coming out with Can I Borrow A Dollar?, his first LP in 1992. Then after the release of 1994’s Resurrection, which was produced by No I.D., people began to pay attention and the project garnered him a fan base outside of Chi-town’s neighborhoods. It wasn’t long until his star quickly rose and more albums were created for the people that he became noted for a slew of hits such as “I Used To Love H.E.R.,” “The Light,” “Come Closer” and contributed on Erykah Badu’s “Love of My Life (An Ode To Hip Hop)” and partook in countless other collaborations with Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott and will.i.am just to name a few.
Feeling the need to further accomplish and execute his dreams, Common decided that acting would be another venture to take on and landed roles in films like 2007’s Smokin’ Aces and the 2008 critically acclaimed crime drama American Gangster, that stars legendary actress Ms. Ruby Dee and icon Mr. Denzel Washington. “Do you understand…wow. Man, I was looking around the set saying to myself, ‘wow, these are the greats. They are incredible actors and this is classic right here, so I was geeked,” he said with a hint of delight and excitement in his voice. His most recent effort is the widely received comedy/romance film Just Wright in which he plays an NBA player who gets injured and while recovering, finds love in the most unexpected place. It is the first film in which he plays a lead role and definitely was excited to be working with Queen Latifah, who is of course, a powerhouse within her own right. The movie comes to DVD on September 14th.
With a spirit of giving back, Common has also established his own foundation, The Common Ground Foundation, in which he is committed to providing youth nationwide with life skills and strategies needed in order to succeed and live healthy, fulfilling lives. When asked what sets him apart from others in the game, his response is simple, yet thought provoking. “I have found my voice…God only created one you. We all have our own voices. I’m not afraid to take chances. I feel that I am courageous with what I do,” he said.
For more information on The Common Ground Foundation, please visit www.commongroundfoundation.org.
Written by Eleanor Smith for Parlé Magazine
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