Common Talks Branding, Social Media, and Business Moves

His strategy: Stick to your core values

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The journey is just as important as the lesson learned, says Common.

With a slight smile he eased through the crowded doorway of the bustling South African restaurant, Madiba, in Brooklyn, New York. Clad in an olive green windbreaker and green t-shirt, Chicago emcee, Lonnie Rashid “Common” Lynn is definitely more understated than some of his mainstream brethren.

While he may be known for his lyrical dexterity and prowess behind a mic, Common is also an adept businessman, raking in $8 million in 2009 with a slew of ventures including a hat line, a deal plugging Microsoft’s Zune, a blossoming acting career, and a 20-year music career. talked to Common, 38,  about successfully building a brand, marketing, and a few business basics he’s picked up over the years. You’ve successfully parlayed your musical success into other areas. As a business man, what advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?

Common: Even if you don’t reach your goal after a certain amount of time, [learn] the lesson from the journey and keep going until you reach that goal. Even then there will be a new goal to achieve. It’s also important that you establish your brand. Make sure you establish what it is you want to be and whatever you’re trying to market.

B.E.:How do you go about successfully building and maintaining a brand?

Common: My thing, from my first record until now is, be true to who you are. If you’re talking about a brand or product that you’re creating, it’s important to have knowledge of what that brand is and to have values. If you had some words to describe that brand, what would they be? You have to stick to those values even when you are striving for monetary goals.

B.E.: As someone who is constantly presented with potential business ventures, what would you say young entrepreneurs need to keep in mind when deciding a business move?

Common: See if it blends with your brand; see if the partnership will work with what you’ve already established. I make sure it doesn’t go against any of my moral beliefs or spiritual beliefs. And then I like to know the people I’ll be doing business with.

B.E.: You have your own blog ( and you’re extremely active on Twitter (@COMMON). How important is social media to today’s entrepreneur?

Common: It’s a way to stay in constant connection with your fans or people who may not even be aware of you who become aware through social media. You’re acknowledging the people who support you.

  • Great revealing article Renita! I have a new profound respect for COMMON (sense). Much respect to building a brand of such power & profit without ever truly accomplishing “mainstream” acceptance until the 2000’s. This brother never had the “luxury” of MTV and TIME magazine covers but has done Very well for himself, his family and his community. Much props Com.

    • Hey Shawn,
      I have to agree. Common has been consistent. He’s remained a relevant emcee for nearly two decades. He’s also proved to be resilient which is rare and valuable. I think part of it has to do with the fact that he has core values that he’s stuck with, that’s critical to the success of any business. Too often companies try to jump on the next wave instead of remaining true to their message and customer base.

  • Eve

    Great article. I totally agree that branding need not be solely about going mainstream. It is so important to remain true to yourself while building a brand. I commend Common for remaining true to himself while building his brad over the years.

    • Thanks Eve. Common’s business philosophy has worked well for him.

  • Dante Wynn

    I did really enjoy the article Common has really stood the test of time. You know your branding well when people consistently say the same things of you. Whether you are in any career field you are a brand and young people need to realize these things when they tattoo themselves and how they carry themselves in public. Years ago when you were in the streets people use to know you by your parents aren’t you the Robinson’s boy and they knew your parents ways and what was acceptable. All branding,starts early ask Barak Obama

  • Great article. I love his music; didn’t realise he had so much side-income. A lesson to all musicians (and employees) – start your side-business!

  • Good write up Renita. Common is one very inspiring dude. I love everything about him. He speaks the truth. Its all about branding your self.