Common: From the Underground to the Spotlight
Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. was born in Chicago on March 13, 1972. Nobody around him in his youth could have guessed the trajectory his career would take, branching out from local rapper to a nationwide success in media from music to acting and writing. Becoming involved with many major names in the industry through music, he would soon be namedropped alongside the greats such as Kanye West, No. ID, and the Soulquarians. But Lonnie Lynn Jr. (known as Common) would have to start from the bottom, and see his success catapult him to gold records and the big screen alike.
Chi-town has long been a hotbed for promising hip hop acts, and the 80’s were a prime example of that. Lynn benefited from this through his highschool rap trio C.D.R. through landing spots opening for touring groups such as N.W.A. Using the local buzz to his advantage, he would quickly go his own way under the moniker Common Sense, releasing his first solo project Can I Borrow A Dollar? This would instantly grow his fan base around Chicago and the rest of the Great Lakes Area, but it wasn’t until his second album Resurrection (1994) that he would see his breakthrough into the nation’s view, particularly from his single “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” about a woman, which was actually a metaphor for the state of gangster rap at the time. Common would continue to speak about life on the street, the underground hip hop scene, and his view on society through music and more for the duration of his career.
While he may have started in the underground, especially looking at the other artists associated with him at the time, it was obvious that his run wasn’t over. While working on his next album One Day It’ll All Make Sense, Common was blindsided by the news that he would soon be welcoming a baby into his life, a daughter born soon after the release of his album. This prompted him to begin setting down his roots in his familiar cities of Chicago and New York, while tightening his circle of contemporaries.
As he settled into his groove, the course of his career would be greatly influenced by those around him. Signing to the GOOD Music label run by his associate Kanye, he would go on to release the critically acclaimed album Be. The imprint of producers J Dilla and Ye himself would shine bright on this project, but not to out do the thoughtful but punchy bars of the rapper. His friendship with J Dilla led him to a fruitful chapter with the ever-rotating group of talented black artists the Soulquarians. This partnership with musicians such as Questlove, D’Angelo, Bilal, Q-Tip, and Mos Def would prove valuable to his longevity in the music business, being featured on various solo projects from members of the group, and utilizing their talent on his own going forward.
With the two albums preceding Be, and the seven following it, Common’s catalog grew rapidly over the years. This once-underground rapper had made a name for himself on the biggest stages around America, but he also had his eyes on the biggest screens.
Expanding His Career
Common’s acting career began to take off while he was still pumping out music at a high rate. Beginning in smaller roles such as in Sitcom Girlfriends in 2003, it soon elevated to more notable films such as Terminator: Salvation, or Just Wright which was released the year after, in 2010. While dabbling in a few more TV shows like AMC’s Hell on Wheels, he recently took part in a couple blockbusters such as 2016’s Suicide Squad and (in the following year) John Wick Chapter 2. Meanwhile, he continued to add to his resume, taking up writing, and providing two memoir’s: One Day It’ll All Make Sense, and Let Love Have The Last Word: A Memoir in 2011 and 2019 respectively. When compiling his undertakings throughout his varied career, it’s honestly hard to not turn a write-up into a bullet point list! Common has truly stretched his wings, encompassing many different forms of media, proving himself talented as well as full of things to say.
Making A Meaningful Mark
This year he has still been busy, now taking his voice to the streets in the name of activism. The #WeMatterToo movement was launched by the man himself, bringing awareness to the conditions that prisoners face, particularly in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the dangers that brings to the population behind bars. It’s never been more clear that Lonnie Lynn Jr. has stayed true to his core, and his roots. Whether through music, media, or activism, he has strived to go further and continue to become greater and greater. He is an example of how even from beginnings in underground rap, it is possible to make a larger impact and legacy.
Want to check out another artist using media to push his career? Catch up on Amine’s latest music videos with our article on the rapper’s creations during a pandemic.