The Observer

No ordinary life: Common gets real in memoir

By Josh Samson, Arts Editor

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 In his 20-year career, Common has been noted for being a talented rapper, actor, model, poet, and philanthropist. Now, he can successfully add “New York Times best-selling author” to the list.

 According to the New York Times official website, Common’s debut memoir “One Day It’ll All Make Sense” places him on the New York Times best-seller list for hardcover fiction among well-known authors like director Michael Moore, comedienne Tina Fey and author Christopher Hitchens.

 Named after his critically-acclaimed third album, the book tells the story of Common’s childhood, capturing his growth and struggles with life on the streets of South Side Chicago. The Windy City is not only the backdrop of the book’s cover, but also the backdrop of Common’s life, one that lives and breathes with Chicago itself.

 Born as Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Common takes every measure to fill his memoir’s pages with positivity and emotion. Starting each chapter with a letter to a different person who has had a strong impact on his life, Common passionately writes messages to a range of people from his mother and daughter to Kanye West, singer Erykah Badu and even Emmett Till, a Chicago teen whose murder by racist Southerners helped start the Civil Rights Movement in the 50s.

 What really helps Common succeed in sharing his story with the world is his honesty, something that can feel so present in hip-hop and yet surprisingly be so absent in rap culture. Labeled a “conscious rapper” by the media, “One Day It’ll All Make Sense” introduces fans to a new side of the rapper, one that handled the problems he faced growing up while learning the wisdom needed to balance being an entertainer, a man and a father.

 Common sheds any fear of losing respect or credibility in order to bring his life to a wider audience in the hopes that people in similar situations can learn from his mistakes while others can look at the world from a different point of view. He also sheds some light on the gritty side of his life, one that most fans don’t recognize when looking at his spotless image. Common stresses that he is human, that his first emotion was love and his second was pain, and that only those with a good heart can make sense out of bad times.

 One of the most surprising additions to the book is Common’s mother’s commentary, multi-paragraph passages scattered throughout the book in italics that show Common’s life through his mother’s eyes. Repeatedly credited as Common’s biggest supporter and friend, Dr. Hines comments on, praises, interprets and sometimes contradicts her son’s words to give the reader a story seen through multiple points of view. This takes the memoir to a new level of realness as it showcases how down-to-earth Common really is as a person.

 After growing up in the city, meeting friends who would grow up to become his closest associates in music, dreaming about the future and working hard to achieve his goals, Common has a worthy story to tell. With his music as his primary testament, the rapper has spent a lifetime soaking up his experiences and spewing them on records to give the world a taste of positivity that has driven him throughout his life. Finally, Common has also been able to successfully relay that same positivity into a memoir that extends his fan base and solidifies his reputation as a poet, a dreamer and a believer.

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No ordinary life: Common gets real in memoir