Some of you known him as a rapper, others know him as a film star. To be fair, he is both of them and a lot more. Personally, I knew of Common for years before he broke into Hollywood. The star of ‘John Wick 2‘ and ‘Run All Night‘ earned his stripes on the underground rap circuit before going mainstream. I saw him perform live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and it was a show for the ages. The electricity was in the air and the place erupted as soon as he stepped on stage. He was larger than life and rightfully so. I saw this book in the lobby of my building and instantly grabbed it. Admittedly, I was unaware of this biography but thoroughly intrigued to see what he had to say.
From the start, it is clear that the book is not a typical autobiography. In fact, the structure of the book is different with Common and his mother Mahalia Ann Hines taking turns in presenting the story. As expected, it starts with his birth in Chicago to Mahalia and the late ABA star Lonnie Lynn (1943-2014). The marriage did not survive and Lynn would later relocate to Denver. But he remained a part of his son’s life and Common discusses many memories of his father that helped shape him into the man he is today. But make no mistake, his mother is the dominant force here and their relationship was cemented in stone over the years as young Rashid grows up in one of America’s most dangerous cities.
Since this is a story about Common, the world of rap music is a topic of discussion. Common tells us how he became entranced by rap and his traversal from possible college graduate to a young rapper determined to strike it big. The odds were surely against him but his determination and belief in himself are inspiring and one of the many uplifting moments in the book. His success was not easy by any means but he does exemplify the old wisdom that one should never give up on a dream. And yes, other stars make an appearance in the story such as the late Tupac Shakur (1972-1996).
To say that there is more the Common than what we see on screen is an understatement. Being from Chicago, he is fully aware of the streets and reveals some mishaps and deeds of his own that he would probably take back if he could. But such is life and it is full of lessons. One of the most challenging is love and Common is not immune to the trials and tribulations that come with relationships. While he does not provide gossip for online forums of magazines, he does talk about his relationships with singer Erykah Badu and actress Taraji P. Henson. We sometimes view celebrities as living in another dimension but the truth is that they are just like everyone else. Heartbreak can and does happen to everyone. But this is Common we are talking about and he does not stay down. He keeps moving forward, taking the lessons in stride with the intention of not making the same mistake again. And from what I have seen, he is a remarkable person who understands the importance of hard work and humbleness.
His mother Mahalia’s wisdom is timeless and she is wise beyond her years. I truly loved her part of the book where she passes along sages of knowledge that we can all keep with us. However, she is not without her faults and is open about where she went wrong at times. But what is clear is that she loves her son and has always been his biggest supporter. I am sure that will continue as Common matures and takes on bigger projects which will reap him more and more success.
Common’s story is not over yet, and I do hope that he has many more years to go in his career. In fact, he is only forty-seven years of age. But if you want to know who he is, where he comes from and where he wants to go, then you cannot go wrong with this enjoyable autobiography by mother and son who open up their lives to the public. And it is true that one day it’ll all make sense.