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Hip Hop Star Common encourages young people

Stacy M. Brown | 1/3/2014, 6 a.m.
Grammy Award winning hip-hop artist Common not only realizes his place as a role model, he embraces it.
Common Courtesy photo

MARYLAND NEWS/ENTERTAINMENT

Hip Hop Star Common Encourages Young People

By Stacy M. Brown

Grammy Award winning hip-hop artist Common not only realizes his place as a role model, he embraces it.

The Chicago native, who performed a concert in Silver Spring on Friday,

December 27, 2013 has been outspoken about the violence that has ravaged his hometown and wrecked the lives of many a young people.

Earlier this year, he offered to host a peace summit with rap star Chief Keef, 18, another Windy City artist who landed in jail after pointing a gun at

police officers during a traffic stop.

“It [youth violence] makes me think that I’ve got to do more,” said Common, 40. “We’ve got to do more. One of the keys to ending the cycle of violence that rap has been associated with is to provide more educational programs and I think the rap community should help those programs.”

Common, also an actor who has starred in such films as, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” in 2012, “American Gangsta,” with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in 2007, and “Smokin’ Aces,” with Jeremy Piven and Ray Liotta in 2006, has started the “Common Ground Foundation,” which organizes recreational programs for inner-city youth, exposing them to the performing arts and personal expression, as well as outdoor activities and mentorship.

“It’s for the underserved, those who can use a boost,” Common said of his foundation, headquartered in Chicago, which he began more than three years ago. “I think by providing programs we’re giving children hope and a prize to look at [whether it’s in the entertainment industry or the arts]. We really hope that what we do with the foundation will be an alternative to just being in the streets.”

Desiree Sledge, a 37-year-old Washington resident says she has been a fan of Common since his debut in the early-1990s because he offered an alternative to the “gangsta” rap being performed by artists such as Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre.

“His lyrics, his delivery made sense to me,” Sledge said. “It wasn’t about the

‘b-word’ and the ‘h-word’ and the ‘n-word.’ It was finally something positive, lyrics that you could repeat in front of a 10-year-old or a 70-year-old.”

Sledge’s son, Tarae Sledge, says he has a catalogue of Common’s music. “I wish I would have known about the concert before now,” said 16-year-old Tarae. “Common is a true role model. He’s not like those other rappers. In fact, it’s hard to just consider him a rapper.”

Many in the music industry would probably agree that labeling Common as just another rapper would be an injustice.

In 1992, the multi-talented artist released his debut album, “Can I Borrow a Dollar?”

The record immediately rose to the top of the R&B charts and music executives and critics began to compare Common to artists such as, “A Tribe Called Quest,” and, “Gang Starr,” hip-hop acts whose lyrics did not debase women or glorify violence.

Common, who has recorded with Kanye West, Lauryn Hill and others, later followed up on the success of his debut with, “Resurrection,” which featured the hit single, “I used to Love H.E.R.,” a song that chronicles hop-hop’s demise.

He’s won two Grammy Awards and five BET music awards to date.

In 2002, the then-rising star made his big screen debut in the film, “Brown Sugar,” which starred Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan. In 2006, he enjoyed a cameo in, “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party,” before landing the part of “Sir Ivy,” in, “Smokin’ Aces.”

Later, Common received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Turner Lucas, the older brother of crime lord Frank Lucas in “American Gangsta.”

Common says that he has learned a lot about acting from Academy Award winners Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, the latter of whom he appeared with in the 2013 film, “Now You See Me,” a thriller which depicts an FBI agent and an Interpol detective tracking a team of professional illusionists who pulled off a bank robbery during one of their performances.

“I love putting my energy and spirit into the work that I do as an actor,” Common said. “And, I want to build and grow, become a leading man in Holly