His journey toward understanding — expressed in his music and now in his roles in film and television — is rooted in his relationship with his mother, Mahalia Ann Hines.
When Common entered the scene in 1992 with his album, “Can I Borrow a Dollar?,” the new, mostly underground artist found himself thrust into a music environment where game-changing albums such as Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic,” Ice Cube’s “The Predator” and Eric B. & Rakim’s “Don’t Sweat The Technique” blazed trails in hip hop.
It would have been easy for Common to disappear into the history books of hip-hop like may other artists of that time (and he admits that he almost quit rapping after his debut).
After all, the competition was stiff.
Yet, Common still stands today, not only as an accomplished and award-winning recording artist, but also as a leading man who has also co-starred alongside thespians as Denzel Washington (“American Gangster”), Queen Latifah (“Just Wright”), Christian Bale (“Terminator Salvation”), Ray Liotta (“Smokin’ Aces”), Steve Carrell, Tina Fey and Mark Wahlburg (“Date Night”).
Despite his vast accomplishments as an artist, however, very little is known about the man. The gripping and introspective memoir “One Day It’ll All Make Sense (Atria, $15)” reveals the story behind the man and his art. Common shares never-before-told stories about his encounters with everyone from Tupac to Biggie, Ice Cube to Lauryn Hill, Barack Obama to Nelson Mandela.
Drawing upon his own lyrics for inspiration, he invites the reader to go behind the spotlight to see him as he really is — not just as Common, but as Lonnie Rashid Lynn.
The artist holds nothing back as he unveils himself, layer by layer, from his childhood on the streets of the South Side of Chicago; to grappling with the decision to leave college, disappointing his mother and pursuing a career in hip hop; to emerging as a talented recording artist faced with all the trappings of fame and success but working hard to remain true to himself and the people who’d supported him along the way.
“People who know me as Common might find it hard to believe some of the things that made me Rashid,” explains Common. “That’s partly why I’ve written this book, so that I can show myself as a man in full. That means telling some tough truths, revealing my faults and vulnerabilities. But it also means showing the true strength of my character.”
He recounts his rise to stardom, giving a behind-the-scenes look into the recording studios, concerts, movie sets, and after-parties of a hip-hop celebrity and movie star. He reflects on his controversial invitation to perform at the White House, a story that grabbed international headlines. And he talks about the challenges of balancing fame, love and fatherhood.
Each chapter begins with a letter from Common addressed to an important person in his life — from his daughter to his close friend and collaborator Kanye West and even from his former love, Erykah Badu. Through it all, Common emerges as a man in full: Rapper. Actor. Activist. But also father, son and friend.
“As Common, I’ve often been classified as a conscious artist,” he reflects. “I take that as a compliment. The only problem with being labeled a conscious artist is that people assume that's all you are, that you’re not also a complex and flawed individual. I made a conscious decision early in my career to focus on growth and positivity. In my own life, I still deal with the negativity sometimes, but I don’t choose to reflect that in the art I put out into the world. I strive to be a conscious artist because I strive to be a balanced human being on my path towards the light.”
Common’s story offers a living example of how, no matter what you’ve gone through, one day it’ll all make sense.