Common: An Overnight Success 20 Years in the Making

Wow! In the last 26 days, gifted actor, producer and MC Common has won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture (with John Legend), received an Oscar nomination for the same song, played the role of James Bevel in the powerful movie Selma, narrated two Microsoft Superbowl commercials and appeared on the Today Show. For many, Common has exploded on the scene, but this explosion has been a long-term testament to discipline, patience, hard work, consistency, strategy and friendship.

I met Common 20 years ago when I was a kid working as senior brand manager for Sprite. We'd recently launched the Obey Your Thirst marketing campaign and were heavily involved in finding and showcasing nascent music talent with big cultural potential. Common was one of the first to bless the mic for Sprite (thank you.) Common's manager, Derek Dudley, is a dear friend. Derek and I met on the campus of Howard University (Bisons, stand up) many moons ago where I was invited to speak on a music panel. Together they have deftly built Common's career from seminal MC ("I Used to Love H.E.R."), to actor, to ad man, to producer, to iconic poet, to humanitarian, to global citizen, yet still Chicago's very own. Occupying all roles with equal dexterity and grace. We saw it all come together during his epic Golden Globe acceptance speech. I hope he and John win the Oscar because I really want to see, hear and feel the pearls of wisdom he'll share.

Both Common and Derek have brilliant minds and they are one of the most formidable tandems in entertainment. For many years they could make their smart moves in relative silence, now the secret is out. It takes a few days to build a birdhouse, yet it takes years to build a pyramid. We're watching in awe as you continue to build pyramids of life and career.

So for anyone who thought the success of Common has come out of nowhere, please study the totality of his stellar career and his partnership with Derek. I realize what I'm requesting is odd in the world of tweets, sound bites and 24-hour news cycles. I promise you will be entertained and educated digging into the evolution of Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr.

Congratulations Common and Derek, I'm very proud of your accomplishments and example. Can't wait to see what's next.