GRAMMY-winning rap artist Common was the recent guest for an installment of The Recording Academy's 5 Questions With … series. Held at The Academy's New York Chapter office, Common discussed his most recent release, The Dreamer/The Believer, his memoir, One Day It'll All Make Sense, winning a GRAMMY, and advice for aspiring artists, among other topics.
"I entitled it The Dreamer/The Believer because I always dreamed of being something," said Common. "I literally used to see Michael Jackson at the GRAMMY shows and be like, 'Man, I want to do something in life that makes people feel good.' I feel like when you dream, you have to believe in your dreams … believing in it is what actualizes it."
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Born Lonnie Rashied Lynn in Chicago, Common, who originally performed under the moniker Common Sense, is considered one of the influential figures in the '90s underground rap scene. His debut album, 1992's Can I Borrow A Dollar? arguably put Chicago hip-hop on the map. The album spawned three Billboard Hot Rap Singles with "Take It Ez," "Breaker 1/9" and "Soul By The Pound." Common relocated to Brooklyn, N.Y., and in 1997 released One Day It'll All Make Sense, which peaked at No. 12 on Billboard's R&B Albums chart and featured guest appearances by artists such as Erykah Badu, Cee Lo Green, Lauryn Hill, and the Roots' Black Thought.
Common subsequently landed a major label deal with MCA Records and in 2000 released Like Water For Chocolate. Produced by the Roots' Questlove, the album featured artists such as Macy Gray, MC Lyte and Mos Def, among others, and earned Common his first GRAMMY nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance for "The Light." For his sixth studio release, 2005's Be, Common teamed with GRAMMY winner Kanye West, who co-produced the album and wrote nine of 11 tracks. The album netted three GRAMMY nominations, including a win for Best R&B Song for "Love Of My Life (An Ode To Hip-Hop)."
West reprised producing roles on 2007's Finding Forever and 2008's Universal Mind Control, the former of which marked Common's first album to top the Billboard 200 and earned him his second GRAMMY for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group for "Southside" featuring West. Released in December 2011, The Dreamer/The Believer features 12 tracks, with samples of songs by Graham Central Station, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, the Impressions, and Kenny Loggins, as well as guest appearances by John Legend and Nas.
In November 2011 Common was featured on "The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!! — Countdown To Music's Biggest Night" in a special performance of "The Message" with Lupe Fiasco, Grandmaster Flash, LL Cool J, Melle Mel, and Scorpio. Aside from music, Common has landed acting roles in films such as 2007's American Gangster and 2011's New Year's Eve and Happy Feet Two, among others.