Common with daughter Omoye Assata Lynn. Provided

By Dan Yount and Felecia Tchen Kanney 

Common, by name of Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., (born March 13, 1972, Chicago, Illinois), American hip-hop artist, actor, and activist who became a mainstream success story, known for intelligent and positive lyrics that were performed in a spoken-word style. – Wikipedia

The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra announced two additional special events for its 2022-2023 season: hip-hop artist Common, who wrote his first rap song at the age of 12 in Cincinnati, will make his Cincinnati Pops debut on Tuesday, October 25, under the direction of Pops Principal Guest Conductor Damon Gupton.

Common will join the Pops to perform music from his discography spanning three decades. A multi-talented artist, Common won a Grammy Award in 2003 for “Best R&B Song” for Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop),featured on the 2002 soundtrack Brown Sugar, and can be seen on films such as American Gangster (2006), Terminator Salvation (2009), Just Wright (2010) opposite Queen Latifah, Now You See Me (2013), and the Oscar-nominated Martin Luther King Jr. biopic, Selma (2014), in which he portrayed activist James Bevel. For Selma, Common and John Legend won the Academy Award in 2015 and a Grammy Award in 2016 for “Best Original Song in a Motion Picture” for the song Glory, which was also performed by Common and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on the Orchestra’s sold-out Classical Roots concert in 2016. This Pops special event is a part of the Orchestra’s 2022-2023 Multicultural Awareness Council Series.

Individual tickets for Common and Ben Folds are now on sale to the public at Music Hall Box Office.

Academy Award, Emmy and Grammy-winning artist, actor, author, and activist, Common continues to break down barriers with a multitude of critically acclaimed, diverse roles, and continued success in all aspects of his career. Having starred in numerous film and television projects, Common has also worked behind the scenes as an executive producer and on multiple soundtracks for which he has received Oscar, Grammy, NAACP, and Critic Choice Award nominations. His latest album, A Beautiful Revolution Part 2 is an inspiring follow up to his previous album, A Beautiful Revolution Part 1. In 2019, Common released hit album Let Love, inspired by his work and experiences writing his New York Times best- selling second memoir, Let Love Have The Last Word.

Common has dedicated countless hours and has been deeply engaged in social justice and advocacy work around mass incarceration, mental health and voting. He launched The Stardust Kids, an incubator and accelerator collective for emerging artists and creative entrepreneurs, the nonprofit Imagine Justice, and through his Common Ground Foundation, Common is dedicated to empowering high school students from underserved communities to become future leaders. “Healing happens when youth are treated with dignity and respect,” he explained. “We are working on connecting with Elementz in Cincinnati, and Common said he would like to connect with the group, which is doing similar social justice work through music.      

In an interview from his offices in California, Common, who is a Chicago native, said he has Cincinnati roots that extend back to spending summers in Cincinnati with his aunt Matti and cousins in Bond Hill. (She now lives in Avondale.) In fact, it was in Cincinnati that he discovered that he could rap and where he was inspired by the poetry of  Lincoln Heights native Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelou to write, he said.

“Nikki Giovanni, whom I met while in Cincinnati, is one of the forcible poets in the country. And I am doing what I am doing because of the inspiration I received from Maya Angelou, with whom, I also later became a good friend.  It was the Bond Hill Crew that he met here  that inspired him to write rap music as a 12-year-old. and make it realistic. 

“There were these guys, these rappers we looked up to called the Bond Hill Crew,” Common said. “So one day, me and my cousin Ajile decided to rap. I’ve been doing it ever since.”

He was 12 years old when he and his cousin wrote:

Well, let me tell you ’bout a trip a time agoI was going there to run a cold-blooded showWhen I was there I saw some people jamming, tooThey called themselves the Bond Hill CrewDr. Ice, Romeo and Master EAll of the Bond Hill crew rappin’ to a TI asked them could they rock with me

Fast forward to 1990, and Common is attending Florida A&M University, while sending out demo tapes to become a rap artist.

Later, he was also collaborating with Kayne West in what he called one of the most inspiring relationships he has had. “He is just incredible.’ His mother, Mahalia Ann Hines of Chicago, and West’s mother have connected, he added.

He’s become known for writing conscious rap, but his debut album, Can I Borrow a Dollar, came out in an era when gangsta rap was the genre. Common said his music selections for the concert will be uplifting and inspiring.  

Pops conductor John Morris Russell and the CSO launched the Classical Roots programs in the wake of the civil disturbances that rocked Cincinnati in 2001.

“We knew we had to do our part to bring our community together again,” Russell said. “So with very little budget, I was charged with putting together a program that celebrated the African American musical tradition.”

In a WCPO interview, Russell said, “I never really knew of Common until I saw the movie ‘Selma.’ I would never have dreamed I would be performing with Common. And that is what is so wonderful about Classical Roots. We’re sharing music that we don’t usually have a chance to share. Every year, it takes me and the orchestra outside of our comfort zone. We get to grow and learn and experience music we might not have experienced first-hand before.”

For his part, Common said he is thrilled about the prospect of working with Russell. And the fact that Russell wasn’t familiar with his work is even better, he said.

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