That Common Thread


As a person who grew up in the inner city Chicago during the 1970’s, my parents, and surrounding group of influential family members and friends, passed along wisdom not found in schools. Most from a similar background understand and appreciate the wisdom given to us by our circle of influence. One of the terms I heard constantly in my household was “common sense”. In many instances those words were not used in a positive way: “Didn’t common sense tell you the right choice?” Of course common sense itself does not possess any abilities to effect change, but the parental point hit home.  Common sense is a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things, which is shared by nearly all people, and can be reasonably expected of nearly all people without any need for debate. As young people we develop an ability to use common sense which stays with us throughout the rest of our lives. Many musicians, specifically hip hop artists, emerge from similar backdrops as mine. The only thing that parents of humble surroundings can pass along to their children is a healthy work ethic, and the knowledge of how to use “common sense”. Such lessons can help a child to eventually walk the road toward success. This was the case with young Lonnie Rashid Lynn, who later began his rap career under the name Common Sense. Today, he is widely known by the stage name Common.Common was born March 13, 1972 in the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. He was raised in the Calumet Heights neighborhood. He is the son of an educator Dr. Mahalia Ann Hines and former ABA basketball player turned youth counselor Lonnie Lynn. Common attended Florida A&M University for two years under a scholarship and majored in business administration. After being featured in the Unsigned Hype column of The Source magazine, Lynn debuted in 1992 with the single “Take It EZ”, followed by the album Can I Borrow a Dollar?, under stage name Common Sense. Since his musical debut Common has moved ahead to become an international superstar.

I have been looking forward to the opportunity to feature Common for some time. In fact, I always love the times I am able to write about any musical artist from the Chicago area, especially my home of the south side of the city. I have mentioned many times before that Chicago’s south side is historically a hot bed for musical talent. It was that way in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and continues even down into modern times. I feel a type of kinship with Chicago musicians, because we do have something in common. We share a similarity geographically and socially. When I hear some artists in my same age group speak about their upbringing, I hear the parallel between us and the way we were raised. As any artist grows successful, we tend to want to know more about them. However, as with Chicago artists, many times I already know much about them without hearing too much personal information. We’ll just call it the “common thread”. That one thing that brings us together. In fact, maybe there is a deeper reason as to why Lynn goes by the stage name “Common”. Through his artistic and philanthropic endeavors, he attempts to bring us all closer together. Common is the founder of the Common Ground Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to empower underprivileged youth to be strong citizens and citizens of the world. The foundation includes programs dedicated to leadership development & empowerment, educational development, creative expression, as well as a book club.

Common’s current tenth studio album is titled Nobody Smilingand was produced entirely by longtime collaborator No I.D. and was released July 22, 2014. The concept of the album was inspired by troubled hometown of Chicago: “We came up with this concept ‘nobody’s smiling.’ It was really a thought that came about because of all the violence in Chicago,” he says. “It happens in Chicago, but it’s happening around the world in many ways.” He continues, “We was talking about the conditions of what’s happening, when I say ‘nobody’s smiling.’ But it’s really a call to action.”

One of the major highlights of Common’s career had to be recording the song “Glory”. The song was performed by American recording artist John Legend and rapper Common. It was written by Legend, Common and Che Smith. The song was released on December 11, 2014 by Columbia Records as the theme song from the 2014 film Selma, which portrays the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches. Common also co-starred as 1960s Civil Rights Movement leader James Bevel in Selma. “Glory” won the award for Best Original Song at the 87th Academy Awards (2015) and the 72nd Golden Globe Awards (2015).

Of course Common is no stranger to both the large and small screen with a major role in the current major film “Run All Night”. Asked recently if he wants more movie roles he answered yes, but also told he is much more comfortable within the music industry and is still learning film and acting. Common would surely not be the first rap artist to successfully build a film resume, but I do not think he will completely abandon music at this time.

In spite of all the success, international fame and fortune, Common seems to keep a balanced world view of life. He continues to strive to share a common thread with humanity.

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