He was born on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois as Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr.
While a student at Luther High School South in Chicago, Lynn with his friends, record producer and Corey Crawley formed C.D.R. a rap trio that opened for acts that included N.W.A and Big Daddy Kane.
Common attended Florida A&M University for two years under a scholarship and majored in business administration. After being featured in the Unsigned Hype column of The Source magazine, and debuted in 1992 with the single "Take It EZ", followed by the album Can I Borrow a Dollar?
With the 1994 release of Resurrection, Common achieved a much larger degree of critical acclaim, which extended beyond Chicago natives. The album sold relatively well and received a strong positive reaction among alternative and underground hip hop fans at the time.
In 2003, Common appeared on the American UPN sitcom Girlfriends. He also had a cameo appearance on an episode of UPN's One on One, where he played a drama class instructor named Darius.