Born Lonnie Rashid Lynn in 1973, was raised in Chicago; father Lonnie Lynn, who contributed raps to his second and third album. Addresses: Record company--Relativity Records, 79 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003; Phone: (212)337-5300.

Hip hop artist Common-formerly known as Common Sense-is known for his emphasis on family values and departure from the "gansta rap" material and negative posturing sometimes found in popular hip hop or rap lyrics and videos. a video of his single "Rap City " on the BET network told the story of a young black man who decided to do the right thing by his pregnant girlfriend by staying with her and supporting her. Common, along with a few other high-profile rappers, was in the forefront of an unprecedented wave of family values in the hip hop community in 1998. He even featured his own father, Lonnie Lynn, on a single titled "Pop's Rap" from One Day It Will All Make Sense. The single is an apology from his father for not always being there. Rolling Stone's Kevin Powell wrote, "Common could be the most thoughtful, lyrically skilled rapper you 've ever heard of ... Common's incisive observations offer a contrast to the materialism drowning today's hip-hop. "Ann Powers of the New York Times described Common as, "A gifted wordsmith ... Common honors a familiar hip-hop essential: storytelling. Like most rappers, he effortlessly discharges witty phrases; but he also weaves complicated, rich narratives. "

Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn in 1973, was raised in Chicago. An NBA hopeful, he was a ball boy for the Chicago Bulls. The first widely hailed MC to emerge from Chicago, Common aspired to be as lauded as KRS-1 or Rakim and he wanted to have something substantive to say through his music. He signed with Relativity Records in 1991 when the rock-oriented label first embraced rap and hip-hop music. The label's executive vice president of marketing and promotion, Alan Grunblatt, told Billboard 's Havelock Nelson, "We always wanted to be involved in cool, hip, alternative music. We feel that rap is part of that."

Common released Can I Borrow A Dollar in 1992, and Resurrection in 1994. In 1994, he was forced to abbreviate his name to Common from Common Sense due to a lawsuit by an Orange County-based reggae group called Common Sense. It him took three years to release One Day It 'll All Make Sense, which included a roster of rap and hip-hop's most talented artists. Erykah Badu contributed to the song "All Night Long, " and Cee-Lo Green of the Goodie Mob contributed to "G.O.D." (Gaining One's Definition). Lauryn Hill of the Fugees recorded with Common while both were expecting the birth of their first child in August of 1997. The single they worked on, "Retrospect For Life," dealt with the fragile topic of abortion and concluded, "315 dollars ain't worth your soul". Q-Tip joined Common on his third release as well in the single "Stolen Moments, Part 3," and De La Soul joined him for "Gettin" Down at the Ampitheatre". Black Thought of the Roots contributed to "Stolen Moments, Part 2". Chantay Savage contributed to "Reminding Me (of Sef)", an upbeat remembrance of his of his youth, which was dedicated to his deceased best friend. Forrest Green 111 wrote in an article for the Detroit based Metro Times, "Common's newest release, One Day It'll All Make Sense, was easily one of the most inventive rap albums of 1997. It 's loose, band-driven fusillade of rapping, poetry and musicianship revives the rap album format for real, but the piece de resistance, "Retrospect For Life," stuff's hip-hop's muses to the gill. "

When Common released Resurrection in 1994 he commented on the regretfully stagnant state of hip-hop and rap with the single, "i used to love h.e.r.". The single was an allegory of hip- hop as an attractive but fickle woman, and it created discussion within the hip-hop/rap realm and drew attention to Common's talent. The single also prompted a lawsuit against Common by rapper Ice Cube, who felt he was maligned in the song. Common took on the gangsta rappers with the single and pointed out where hip-hop had grown tiring. The lawsuit did not end favorably for Common, and litigation slowed the production of Resurrection. Common explained to the Orange County Register's Ben Wener why he was so disillusioned by rap when he wrote "i used to love h.e.r.". He said, "Everything became so old. The repetition of not just one sound but every sound, and all the samples that came out were so tired.... In "88, "89, you had groups coming out in all different directions. Why did that suddenly stop "...I couldn't understand where hip-hop was going. I still can't, you know"

Common told Wener he knew he had to have a distinctive style to separate himself from other rap artists, and the impending birth of his daughter provided fuel for his imagination and creativity for his third release. Other noted rappers such as Snoop Doggy Dogg, LL Cool J, and Coolio turned to the joys of fatherhood and marriage in their material, and Common was among those ushering in a new lyrical and spiritual trend toward family values and adulthood. In a Newsweek interview with Veronica Chambers, he said, "A lot of my friends were getting turned off to hip-hop music because we were growing up...Hip-hop lost part of its audience because of that. " Rapper Busta Rhymes, who doesn 't rap about family values, told Newsweek's Chambers, "I can really appreciate Common on a personal level. "

Common was the headline act for the Elements of Hip-Hop tour in 1998, which included Rahzel the Godfather of Noyze (of the Roots), four DJs from San Francisco known as the X-Ecutioners (Mista Sinista, Roc Raida, Total Eclipse, and Rob Swift), and Common 's four-piece band called A Black Girl Named Becky. After the release of One Day it Will All make Sense, Common decided to learn to play the piano and drums, and he took a music theory class and a course in the business of music in order to better appreciate his calling. In 1998, he aspired to eventually perform in a quartet and to someday look back on what he created with pride. In spite of his positive message and status as a "rapper's rapper," Common doesn 't yet enjoy the mainstream success of commercial rappers such as Busta Rhymes or hardcore rapper Ice Cube. Common told Wener, "Sooner or later I'll catch the new people, even if I have to keep reinventing myself. I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully people will react. Eventually, I pray, they'll come to the songs."

by B. Kimberly Taylor

Common's Career

Signed with Relativity Records under the name Common Sense in 1991; lost a lawsuit to a reggae band named Common Sense and shortened his name in 1994; released Can I Borrow A Dollar in 1992; released Resurrection in 1994; released One Day it'll All Make Sense in 1997; headline act for the Elements of Hip-Hop tour in 1998, which included Rahzel the Godfather of Noyze (of the Roots), four DJs from San Francisco known as the X-Ecutioners (Mista Sinista, Roc Raida, Total Eclipse, and Rob Swift), and Common's four-piece band called A Black Girl Named Becky.

Famous Works

Further Reading


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