Chicago emcee Common is one of the most potent lyricists in hip-hop. Born and raised in ‘The Windy City’, the musician (real name Lonnie Lynn) is known for his soulful music and conscious lyrics. Lynn has worked with the likes of J Dilla and has worked extensively with his Chicago counterpart Kanye West. That said, although Common has a prolific discography, there is one Nas track that Lynn called the “greatest song ever written.”
Common has collaborated with a number of conscious rap artists, including Mos Def, Slum Village, Talib Kweli and more. As part of the Soulquarians, Lynn produced material that embraced not just the African-American experience but explored the world in a far more Pan-Africanist manner.
In an interview with Men’s Health, Lynn opened up about his journey in hip-hop and the importance of lyrics with meaning. Explaining an encounter he had with a fan, “I remember being at a performance and then walking outside of the show, and this dude came up to me, and he said, ‘Common, I really love your music. I want to tell you that your song ‘Retrospect for Life’ made me decide to have my kid.'”
Expounding on the messages he puts in his music and his intentions, Common explained, “I wrote that song because I had been through that experience. And there was a moment when I was on the way to the abortion clinic, and the mother of my child decided, ‘We can’t do this again,’ because this was after already having one abortion.”
He continued, “Let’s figure out whatever we have to do. That situation showed when you receive experiences from a place of truth. It just resonates in a different way.” He then explained that he has admiration for artists who put effort into their songs, especially when their tracks have a deep and profound meaning.
He revealed that during that challenging period of his life, he connected with the music of Nas, unveiling, “That’s why we related to when Nas talked about what he talked about on Illmatic. He experienced it, and the way he told it was just beautiful. In ‘One Love,’ he talks to his boy in prison. That’s one of the greatest songs ever written.”
As well as Nas, the Chicago lyricist was also influenced by pioneering rapper KRS-One, who he said “changed his life” with the song, ‘My Philosophy.’ You can read the Men’s Health interview below.