Ever since the mid-'90s, Common has been putting out a refreshing sound on the rap and hip-hop scene, providing an alternative to the gangsta-themed music that dominated the genre throughout the decade. Common's jazz and blues influences and lyrics - which seemed inspired by poetry would change the landscape of hip-hop - brought about the rise of many similar artists throughout the '90s and 2000s. Common, who was born as Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. in Chicago in 1972, showed musical acumen from the beginning, forming a rap trio dubbed C.D.R., which would open for popular acts like N.W.A. and Big Daddy Kane. After leaving the group to go off to business school, the artist, then known then as Common Sense, decided his lifelong plan was to become a musician and would release his first album, Can I Borrow a Dollar?, in 1992.
In 1994, Common Sense released his follow-up album, Resurrection, which featured the catchy single "I Used to Love H.E.R," which spoke about the decline of rap as an art form which ruffled the feathers of many longtime rap aficionados. It was during this year that Common Sense shortened his name to Common and jumped to the Relativity record label to release One Day It'll All Make Sense in 1997. The album would prove to be a landmark release for Common, who collaborated with a variety of artists like Lauryn Hill, Q-Tip, Erykah Badu, Cee-Lo and De La Soul.
After signing with MCA Records, Common's popularity took a major step forward with his 2000 album, Like Water for Chocolate. The record would hit No. 5 on the Billboard hip-hop charts and No. 16 on the pop charts. "The Light" was Common's highest-charting single to-date and resonated with a new generation of fans. Common's MCA follow-up, Electric Circus, was also critically-acclaimed, commercially successful and showed the compelling growth of Common as an artist.
In 2005, Common released Be, which was produced almost entirely by Kanye West and climbed to No. 1 on the hip-hop charts and No. 2 on the pop charts. The album was nominated for four Grammys in 2006 and gave his next release, Finding Forever, significant momentum that would have it open up at No. 1 on the pop charts. As one of the most successful artists on the hip-hop scene for the past 20 years, Common has become rap royalty and has many surprises left to come.