Making his name in the world of rap music, Common (formerly Common Sense) was best known for lyrics that focused on love and spirituality. Although his music fell under the socially conscious subgenre of hip-hop, which was constantly under popular and fiscal assault by gangsta rap, he created and maintained a significant underground following for over ten years. Eventually, Common would find more mainstream success and appeal on the big screen as an actor of some acclaim.
Born Rashid Lynn on March 13, 1972 in Chicago, IL, Common was the son of former NBA basketball player Lonnie Lynn, and was an aspiring rap star in his native Windy City since his early high school years. Common dropped his first single “Take It EZ” in 1992 before releasing the LP, Can I Borrow a Dollar? under the MC moniker, Common Sense. At that time, the rap world and its fans had effectively turned its back on socially conscious music, (i.e. music practiced by Public Enemy, X-Clan and KRS-One), so for Common, popular acclaim was virtually nonexistent. This did not dissuade him, however, as he established a solid fan-base among alternative rap fans who considered Common important in the rap game.
On Can I Borrow a Dollar? there was a track called “I Used to Love H.E.R.” which sparked a feud with West Coast rapper Ice Cube. The song’s lyrics criticized the path hip-hop was taking, including the popularity of West Coast G-Funk (Gangsta Funk) rap. Ice Cube and Common issued diss records back and forth, finally culminating with a pow-wow with Minister Farrakhan, who helped the rappers set aside their dispute. Unfortunately, the success of the album and notoriety of the Ice Cube spat caused a ska band with the name Common Sense to sue Common. Common was forced to change his MC moniker to simply “Common.”
In 1994, the rapper released his next album, Resurrection to a much larger degree of critical acclaim, particularly among the Windy City faithful. The record sold well and it boosted Common’s status in the alternative and underground hip-hop community. In 1997, Common released his next album One Day It’ll All Make Sense, which included collaborations with rap superstars Lauryn Hill (from The Fugees), Q-Tip (from A Tribe Called Quest), Canibus, and Black Thought (from The Roots). The critically-acclaimed album made a strident point of eschewing any gangsta-gangsta lyrics (due to remarks about Common’s musical integrity). MCA Records came knocking and gave Common a major label recording contract.
In 2000, Common released his fourth album – Like Water for Chocolate with J Dilla producing all the tracks, except one – “The Sixth Sense,” which was produced by highly sought-after producer DJ Premier. The track became one of the most popular songs on the album. Like Water for Chocolate was a breakthrough success for Common, earning him his first gold record, and greatly expanded his fan base among critics and listeners. The most popular single, “The Light” was even nominated for a Grammy; unfortunately he did not win.
Common’s next album, Electric Circus, featured Common rapping over electric rock music and electronica-influenced tracks. Some thought this was the future of hip hop, others completely rejected this artistic experiment. In the end, the album received mixed reviews and did not sell as well as Common’s previous efforts.
Before the release of Electric Circus, Common was romantically linked to neo-soul singer Erykah Badu, but the relationship ended in April of 2003.
Common released his next album, Be, in May 2005 on the G.O.O.D Music label, with most of the production handled by the confident rapper, Kanye West, a fellow native of Chicago and longtime fan. Even though J Dilla produced two of the album’s tracks, it was Kanye’s new iconic status that greatly boosted the album’s popularity, silencing critics who claimed that Common’s career was over and finally pushing him over the platinum sales mark.
In 2004, Common made the jump into acting, appearing in episodes of “Girlfriends” (UPN, 2000- ), “Chappelle’s Show” (Comedy Central, 2003-04) and “One on One” (UPN, 2001- ). Common was tapped to appear in Joe Carnahan’s crime comedy, “Smokin’ Ace” (2007). The rapper-turned-actor also contributed music to many films’ soundtracks, such as “Wild Wild West” (1998), “Any Given Sunday” (1999), “Bamboozled” (2000), “Orange County” (2002) and “Brown Sugar” (2002).
- Bio of Common courtesy Yahoo! TV
News, Notes and Reviews
Album Review – Ever since his debut album in 1992, Common (a.k.a Common Sense) has slowly been winning fans over with his smooth delivery and insightful lyrics.
Common’s latest album BE features top selling singles “The Corner” and “Go”.
Like many other albums in todays Hip-Hop and R&B; genres, BE benefits from some of the industries best producers/singers/songwriters and musicians.
But what truly separates this album from the rest of the pack is it’s cool, jazzy undertone and Common’s smooth spoken-word style that is as pleasing to the ear as the instrumentals themselves. This album is a must have for any true Hip-Hop fan.
1992: “Can I Borrow a Dollar?”
1997: “One Day It’ll All Make Sense”
2000: “Like Water for Chocolate”
2002: “Electric Circus”