What does it take to create something timeless? How do you make art that speaks to the human experience? How do you make music that crosses boundaries of gender, class, ethnicity and geography? You speak truth from your heart, filter it through your mind and put your soul into all you do. This is the process of finding forever; and COMMON’s approach to music. In the age of disposable ringtone rap and one-hit wonders it’s rare to find a rapper who asks himself “what am I giving to the world?” every time he steps into the studio. In rap these days how many people really aspire to make classic material? The man born Lonnie Rashid Lynn does. You see Common isn’t just a dope emcee; he’s the perfect example of hip-hop’s potential for growth.
With multi-platinum iconoclast and creative dynamo Kanye West as his executive producer and the chief beatsmith on FINDING FOREVER COMMON has crafted an LP for his fans past, present and future. For the “heads” there’s “The Game” a raw banger meant to incite aggressive head nods and “damn, that was dope” responses features scratches by DJ Premiere and a raucous beat from Kanye. The song is a purist’s wet-dream.
And what would a COMMON album be without love songs? This of course is the man who penned “The Light,” “Come Close” and “Love Is.” Common, the intellectual, gets sexual and flirtatious on the “I Want You” produced by Will.I.Am with vocals by Bilal, and “So Far To Go,” produced by late great J Dilla and featuring the elusive D’Angelo.
Walking the line between raw hip hop and crossover smash is “Drivin’ Me Wild” his collaboration with British chanteuse Lily Allen. Showing his sense of humor but also dropping gems of wisdom COMMON tells the tales of people obsessed with image and the pitfalls of trying to be anything other than your self.
On “Misunderstood” producer Devo Springsteen flips a dramatic Nina Simone into a soundscape for COMMON to turn griot. He tells the story of a young man consumed by the streets that raised him and a woman whose dreams of stardom have lead her down the road to perdition and later redemption. This is Common’s gift, not constrained by hardcore posturing or conspicuous materialism he is able to tell the stories of real people, not stereotypes and caricatures of people in the ‘hood.
"I always wanted to be that voice for all people,” says Common. “If I tell you a story about some spacey astrology thing that's because I’ve experienced it or I’ve been next to somebody who experienced it, if I tell you a story about selling some dope or getting robbed or shot that’s because I’m next to the person that knows the person it happened to… I rap from a truthful place.” Like he says on the Kanye produced and FINDING FOREVER’s first single “The People” Common represents all those: “Sick and tired of punchin’ in/I look on the bus at them/when I see them strugglin’/I think how I’m touchin’ them/.” How do you make classic material? You speak to and for the people you do what you do for the common man and woman. Then and only then have you found forever.
Way back in ’92 a skinny, light-skinned kid from the Southside of Chicago named COMMON SENSE introduced himself to the world with the single “Take It EZ” schooling up and coming rappers on the game: “Brothers out here sayin’ you should come on the gangsta tip, other brothers sayin’ you should come on the smooth tip. Y’ know what? Just be yourself and take it easy . . .” and since day one Common has stuck to that advice for himself. We’ve seen him evolve through the looking glass of his music like no other artist. From a 40-swigging, fast-rapping, trash-talker to a thoughtful mature master of the rhyme. If his first two albums Can I Borrow A Dollar and Resurrection were snapshots of a b-boy coming of age then FINDING FOREVER is a portrait of the artist as a grown man. “Everybody won’t be happy with the way I grow or the way I change but that's what I owe myself, to be truthful," he explains.
Through every stage of his development COMMON has earned a large and loyal following. His undeniable skill and charisma made him a fan favorite amongst hardcore hip-hop heads on his first two LPs while One Day It’ll All Make Sense—an album that featured collaborations with Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and a pre-Gnarls Barkley Cee-Lo—introduced him to the neo-soul/bohemian crowd. Produced by the Roots’ own Questlove and A Tribe Called Quest collaborator J Dilla 2000’s “Like Water For Chocolate” solidified his position as a torch-bearer for Natives Tongues-style hip-hop and the next generation of soul musicians.
The adventurous Electric Circus saw COMMON expand his horizons even more, channeling Jimi Hendrix while Be saw Common collaborate with another Southside titan named Kanye West—the result was a classic, soulful album that would garner four Grammy award nominations, and two MTV Video Award for his hit single “Testify” including “Best Hip Hop Video.”
Having made his name in music, COMMON, the artist/actor/entrepreneur, is now poised to make the transition from underground hero and eclectic icon rapper to mainstream superstar gaining the eyes and ears of a whole new audience. He made his acting debut in January 2007 co-starring alongside Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck and Ray Liotta in “Smokin’ Aces” for Universal Pictures and writer/director Joe Carnahan. Later in 2007 he will co-star opposite Denzel Washington in “American Gangster,” Directed by Ridley Scott, he recently wrapped the filming of “Wanted” with co-stars Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie and will soon start work on Director David Ayer’s “The Night Watchman” co-starring with Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker.
In addition to this, COMMON has crossed demographic boundaries as the pitchman in national ad campaigns for The Gap and Converse Red. But one of his most joyful accomplishments is the three books Common has written inspired by his daughter, one of which, “I Like You, But I Love Me,” was recently nominated for a NAACP Image Award. His first book, “The Mirror and Me,” teaches lessons of life, the human spirit and human nature and his third book, “M.E. (Mixed Emotions),” is due for release later this year.
COMMON also started the Common Ground Foundation, an organization dedicated to utilizing the cultural relevance of Hip-Hop to serve as an advocate for justice, education, to fight poverty, and to increase health awareness amongst youth in underserved communities throughout the United States.
And then there’s fashion: COMMON partners with the Italian hat maker La Coppola Storta on his hat line, Soji, which is sold in its stores in Italy and New York City.
COMMON, is the true essence of a renaissance
man that understands the concept offinding forever of
which he embodies in all of his works. Check him out and you too
will be inspired to find forever.