Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. has turned multitasking into an art form. One day he is sitting on a panel with Robin Williams, Elijah Wood and Hank Azaria trading jokes about their frosty, eco-friendly new movie Happy Feet 2. The next day the artist more commonly known as…Common… is in the studio finishing up his ninth album, The Dreamer The Believer. Between all of this he is promoting his memoirs “One Day It’ll All Make Sense” and a new TV Show, “Hell On Wheels”, where he plays a freed slave working on the railroads in the 1800s.
How does someone keep all of these disparate interests straight in their head, especially coming from an industry that places a premium on being “real”?
“You go to those different places inside of you,” Common tells TheUrbandaily.com between bites of his lunch at The Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. “I think a lot of us as human beings express these different qualities; love, anger, fear. All those things…joy. The way I was raised I came up seeing the streets but I was also educated in private school. So I’ve been able to express myself in different ways.”
The cliche is that luck favors the prepared but it’s still an impressive feat to have a book, an album, a movie and a television series coming out in the same quarter. However, Common is humble about the whole convergence, chalking it up to an unseen hand at work that is certainly not the illuminati.
“Everything is happening when it’s supposed to,” he says. “It’s God’s divine order that all this came out at the same time. I did Happy Feet 2 a year and some ago. The album was supposed to come out earlier and it’s coming out in December. I thank God for the way people are reading the book and now I’m on a panel with Robin Williams and Elijah Wood. This is what I do and I love it.”
In Happy Feet 2 Common voices a penguin named Seymour. His son Atticus is a little b-boy that would give Chilly Willy a run for his money on the mic. With this role Common joined a growing list of rappers voicing cartoons like Queen Latifah, Fat Joe and Xzibit all because a previous opportunity fell through.
“[Director] George Miller and I were going to work on Justice League for Warner Brothers,” he explains. “It didn’t go through but he and I built a good relationship and I hold him in a high regard. I saw Happy Feet and thought it was really fresh. I was impressed and loved it. He called me and said he wanted me to [voice] this character in Happy Feet 2 and I said I’d love to. I haven’t been part of any films where the whole family could go and enjoy it. This was my first opportunity to do animated voice over work. It was incredible.”
Common, who is the father of a 14-year-old girl has personal experience with playing a protective dad.
“She was into it but she’s in her teenage stage now. She wanted to go see The Ides Of March, ” he says with a laugh. “But she was happy that I was a part of the film. Just the other day we were riding around and she said this is everywhere.”
Common may have better luck getting her to tune into his AMC series, “Hell On Wheels”. In the small screen Western Common plays Elam Ferguson, a biracial ex-slave working on the Union Pacific Railroad.
“‘Hell on Wheels’ is an incredible show because it deals with all these different people of different cultures and backgrounds coming together to build this railroad,” he shares. “It’s the American dream being built and [it shows] how some people relate. Some get a long, some don’t, it’s like a reflection of America today. My character is real strong. It’s a character you haven’t seen depicted in film or TV from a Black person in that era. Maybe Denzel in Glory, but it’s still a little different.”
All of these many moods seem to manifest themselves on Common’s new album, and rightfully so. On the combative “So Sweet” he boasts lines like “Hip-Hop’s master cleanse and I’m gonna get my sh*t off…”, which is the antithesis of the more ethereal “Blue Sky.”But like his many outlets in the world of entertainment there are many sides to Common waiting to be revealed.
“Doing a song like ‘Sweet’ was just me too, and being able to go in my imagination and be a penguin is also an aspect of my creativity. I always feel proud to represent hip-hop in whatever world we go to.”
Happy Feet 2 will be in theaters on Friday November 18th.