One of the most acclaimed rappers of the past 20 years, Common is known for his socially conscious lyrics and experimental beats, as well as his foray into acting and writing.
Common was born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. on the South Side of Chicago. He founded his first rap trio in high school, but he attended Florida A&M for two years before opting to focus on his music career. Common's first single, "Take It EZ," appeared in 1992. His first album, Can I Borrow a Dollar?, was released under the stage name Common Sense, but he later shortened it to Common after being sued by a ska band of the same name.
In 1994, Common wrote "I Used to Love H.E.R." in response to what he perceived as the decline of moral integrity in hip-hop. He also worked to eliminate any gangsterism in his own rap, and his critically acclaimed 1997 release One Day It'll All Make Sense reflects that work. The album featured collaborations with Lauryn Hill, Questlove and other artists.
After signing a major label deal, he released Like Water for Chocolate and the gold-selling Be, which featured collaborations with Kanye West.
Common's noteworthy awards
Common won his first Grammy Award in 2003 for Best R&B Song and a second Grammy in 2007 for "Southside," featuring Kanye West. In 2015, Common won the Academy, Golden Globe and Grammy awards for the original song, "Glory,"which he wrote with John Legend for the film Selma. He has also won four BET Awards, four BET Hip Hop Awards and two Black Reel awards. As an actor, Common won the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture category at 2015's NAACP Image Awards.
Common personal life
Common founded the Common Ground foundation, which seeks to empower underprivileged youth to become active citizens in the world. The foundation routinely offers programs to develop leadership skills, encourage creative expression and enhance education. He also is part of the AIDS-awareness campaign, Knowing is Beautiful.
As an actor, Common starred in the TV series Hell on Wheels and portrayed civil rights leader James Bevel in Selma. In addition to his numerous screen credits, he also started a film production company in 2015. In 2011, Common published his memoir, One Day It'll All Make Sense. That same year, he appeared at a 2011 White House poetry reading, and his own work is strongly influenced by Maya Angelou.