Biography: Common

Name: Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.

Born: March 13, 1972 in Chicago, Illinois

Nickname: Common Sense

Things You Didn't Know About Common:

  • Common is a vegan and a supporter of PETA.
  • Common's father, Lonnie Lynn, played ABA basketball for the Pittsburgh Pipers.
  • Originally named Common Sense, he had to change his moniker because a Ska band of the same name sued him.

Common's Early Rap Career

Born and raised in the south side of Chicago, a city not particularly renowned in hip-hop lore, Common would grow to be a beacon of light not only in the Windy City, but throughout the world of hip-hop.

After leaving Florida A&M University, Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. set his eyes on a career as an emcee. In 1991, the Source magazine's famed "Unsigned Hype" column showcased Common (then known as Common Sense) as hip-hop's freshest face. In 1992, Common released his debut album Can I Borrow a Dollar? Though it failed to attain any substantial commercial success, it established a strong fan base amongst the underground.


Common would elevate his game in 1994, when he released his second album, Resurrection. Propelled by its classic song "I Used to Love H.E.R.," a brilliant metaphor for the history and state of hip-hop, Common further proved that he was anything but common. A beef between Common and Ice Cube soon ensued as the latter took offense to lyrics in "I Used to Love H.E.R." which criticized gangsta rap. The beef was soon put to rest by Louis Farrakhan himself.

Common and Erykah Badu

With his following two albums, One Day It'll All Make Sense and Like Water for Chocolate, Common honed his craft of conscious hip-hop; in 2002, he switched it up a bit.

Though still focusing on music with a message, Common created an experimental and quite gutsy album that drew from an eclectic mix of genres as well as supporting artists. The album was met with more criticism than praise, and many accused Common’s then-girlfriend Eryka Badu of diverting the emcee from his tried-and-true craft.

It looked like Common need a new resurrection.


BE is a backronym with various meanings, one of which happens to be “B-boy Elevation.” Common’s 2005 release was just that: an elevation and embrace towards his b-boy roots and essence of hip-hop. Featuring production by fellow Chi-Towner Kanye West, as well as the late J Dilla, BE exemplified Common’s greatest strengths and was praised by not only his underground base of fans, but several others, particularly in the “underground scene”, as well. It was a long time coming, but Common was finally able to achieve both artistic success as well as a substantial amount of commercial success. Quite uncommon…

Common’s Discography

  • 1992 – Can I Borrow A Dollar? (Relativity Records)
  • 1994 – Resurrection (Relativity Records)
  • 1997 – One Day It’ll All Make Sense (Relativity Records)
  • 2000 – Like Water for Chocolate (MCA Records)
  • 2002 – Electric Circus (MCA Records)
  • 2005 – BE (G.O.O.D. Music / Geffen Records)
  • 2014 - Nobody's Smiling

Oscar Glory

In 2015, Common and John Legend won an Oscar for Best Original Song for "Glory," their collaborative track off the movie Selma.

Memorable Common Quotes

“They say my life is comparable to Christ's/ The way I sacrificed, and resurrected twice/ They say ‘The crochet pants and the sweater was wack’/ Seen ‘The Corner’, now they say ‘That n****'s back’…” (Common on "They Say")

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Your Citation
Rott, Ivan. "Biography: Common." ThoughtCo, Nov. 29, 2015, Rott, Ivan. (2015, November 29). Biography: Common. Retrieved from Rott, Ivan. "Biography: Common." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 24, 2017).