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Common – The Soulful Voice of Conscious Hip-Hop

Full Name Lonnie Corant Jaman Shuka Rashid Lynn Jr.
Age 50
Birthday March 13, 1972
Birthplace Chicago, Illinois, United States
Height 6′ 0′′
Net Worth $45 million
Social Media

For over 25 prolific years, Lonnie "Common" Lynn has been spreading uplifting messages and giving back to the communities that raised him through his socially conscious hip-hop. The Chicago native first burst onto the scene in the early 90s with his fluid raps and jazz-influenced beats. But it was his thoughtful, poetic lyrics – touching on complex themes like urban life, love, spirituality, and activism – that quickly set him apart. While many MCs gained fame through abrasive shock tactics, Common took the high road. Staying true to his positive artistic vision has allowed this multi-talented rapper, actor, and entrepreneur to maintain relevance for decades. For representing hip-hop‘s power to inspire change, Common remains essential.

Common‘s Origins & Early Grind

Born Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. and raised on Chicago‘s South Side, Common fell in love with words at a young age. His mother Dr. Mahalia Ann Hines, an educator who was both his high school English teacher and principal, nurtured his passion for language. He began rapping in the late 80s under the moniker "Common Sense," eventually joining forces with two other up-and-coming MCs to form CDR. After dropping out of Florida A&M University, Common moved back to Chicago in 1991 and hit the local hip-hop scene hard.

He dropped his first demo tape in 1990, followed by his debut album Can I Borrow A Dollar? in 1992. While it gained some modest buzz, it was his second album Resurrection (1994) that really put him on the map. Hailed as an instant classic, Resurrection featured conscious rhymes over mellow jazz loops crafted by legendary producer No I.D. Songs like the metaphorical “I Used To Love H.E.R.” wowed critics and showed Common’s promise as a thoughtful, poetic storyteller. The album became his breakthrough, putting the Chicago hip-hop scene on notice.

Career Highlights: Movies, Music, & More

After dropping two more solid albums, Common finally crossed over to mainstream success with 2000‘s Like Water For Chocolate. Fueled by the infectious jam “The Light,” the album debuted at #16 on the Billboard 200 and earned three Grammy nods. Suddenly, Common had become a chart-topping, arena-filling superstar appealing to audiences across the hip-hop spectrum.

More commercial success followed on albums like 2005‘s Be and 2007‘s Finding Forever, the latter debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200. Common even won an Oscar in 2015 for "Glory," his collaboration with John Legend for the film Selma. But through it all, he never compromised his socially conscious core. Alongside rap giants like Jay-Z and Kanye West, who became early mentors, Common emerged as one of hip-hop‘s premier voices for social change.

Ever evolving his artistry, Common began seamlessly bridging into acting in the 2000s. After landing roles in indie films like 2006‘s Smokin’ Aces, he got his big break in the 2007 Denzel Washington crime drama American Gangster. This launched a steady stream of roles in acclaimed films like Terminator Salvation (2009), Selma (2014), and the John Wick franchise. Common even played the first-ever basketball game against President Obama at the White House in 2010 – another surreal milestone in an extraordinary career.

Giving Back

Even as his stardom exploded, Common never lost sight of his Chicago roots. In 2007, he founded the Common Ground Foundation – an outreach program for disadvantaged youth with guiding principles of LOVE (Leaders Obtaining Visions through Education). The nonprofit provides counseling, mentoring, developmental workshops, and other opportunities to help underserved students thrive. To date, Common Ground has served over 22,000 students across 15 Chicago schools.

Common’s philanthropic work extends far beyond just his namesake foundation. He actively supports many social justice and human rights causes, having performed at fundraising concerts for Hurricane Katrina victims, Nelson Mandela‘s 90th birthday, and the Black Lives Matter movement. And he doesn’t just throw money at problems – he takes action. Like in 2014, when he helped organize the “Freedom Friday” celebrity-led protest over the Ferguson tragedy. For Common, building community and creating change is just as important as packing stadiums.

The Legacy of Common

After 27 years and counting of elite-tier hip-hop, what makes Common matter? For starters, his lyricism remains sharper than ever. He tackles complex themes through masterful use of wordplay, storytelling, and layered metaphors. Take "Letter to the Free," a powerful track off 2016‘s Black America Again highlighting racial injustice and mass incarceration. Over a pounding drumbeat, Common spits socially charged bars like "The same fight that made gone change… the same fight that gave us strange fruit."

Many critics also hail him as hip-hop‘s greatest love poet, thanks to gems like 2000‘s "The Light." He paints romance with vivid, striking language devoid of the misogyny plaguing mainstream rap. And then there‘s his artistic integrity. As fan James L. recently told, "Common has managed to stay true to his roots. As he evolved, he chose substance over hype."

This substance – namely Common‘s uplifting, socially charged themes – make his music resonate deeply with fans. For many, songs like "The People" and "Glory" have served as anthems during difficult times. They inspire audiences to persevere and make a difference. Between his music and philanthropy, Common has touched countless lives – perhaps his greatest legacy. Even amidst fame, he stays devoted to empowering communities and promoting justice through positive art. That‘s what continues to set Chicago‘s hometown hero apart after nearly three decades. All of hip-hop owes thanks to the conscience of rap, Lonnie "Common" Lynn.