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'Pops' Contributes to Rapper Common's Cause


The last song on the album begins with Common rapping, and it ends with his father. He's become a regular feature at the end of Common's albums. And since Father's Day is this Sunday, we resolved to talk with Common and his father, who is 62 and a onetime professional basketball player. He's known as Lonnie "Pops" Lynn. Well, Common didn't quite make it to the studio on time, but Mr. Lynn talked with us about his part in the song "It's Your World," and how he started speaking poetry on his son's hip-hop albums.

(Soundbite of "It's Your World")

Mr. LONNIE LYNN: Be. Be here. Be there. Be that. Be this.

It started off as a joke, Robert. I was just in the studio with him in Chicago years ago, and they had pizza and what have you all over the place. So when he got through recording, he came out and say, `Hey, Dad, why don't you do something, man?' So I stood up and I go, `What you want me to do, go get some more pizza or something?'

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LYNN: `Oh, Dad, man, you can't even go in the recording room and say you're my father, man?' I say, `Man, I ain't got no fear.' And the perspiration was already running out from under my cap--You understand?--just thinking about this. And so I'm just--there's some impromptu stuff; I guess the kids call that free-lancing nowadays, you know. And then he put it on the album.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. LYNN: (Rapping) Basically, I just dropped by the studio to see what my son does, my main man, my son, Common Sense. They used to call me No Sense. Now they saying I got plenty sense.

SIEGEL: Had you written before that?

Mr. LYNN: No, no.

SIEGEL: Had you done anything like this before that?

Mr. LYNN: I'm just sitting there trying to enjoy some pizza.

(Soundbite of "It's Your World")

Mr. LYNN: Be grateful for life. Be grateful to life. Be gleeful every day.

SIEGEL: In this particular song, "It's Your World"--now that can't just be spontaneous. I assume you must have worked on this.

Mr. LYNN: I wrote a lot of things out, you know. I knew I didn't want to talk about materialism and I didn't want to talk about who was the best and who was the worst and things like that. I wanted to get the song toward some spiritual awareness, peaceful solutions and things like that. So I did have some material, but I'm going to tell what really the difference was. When my son come out here to perform, they give me the respect of leading the prayer, I guess, as the elder, you know.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. LYNN: But this time, me and my son's walking toward the recording room and he stopped. We put our heads together and he put his arms around me and he led the prayer. I cannot tell you the transition that occurred during that prayer. I mean, I believe I can do anything my son believe I can do.

(Soundbite of "It's Your World")

Mr. LYNN: Be food for thought to the growing mind. Be the author of your own horoscope. Be invited.

SIEGEL: It sounds to me as though your relationship with your son has come full circle, that when we're little, we believe we can do things because our fathers believe we can do them. And you're saying you believe you can do anything because your son believes you can do that.

Mr. LYNN: Robert, you know, on one of his earlier albums, I shared some things about what a powerful influence he was on me. And I tell the true story that my professional basketball career had just ended and I really was in bad shape, period, anyway you want to describe it. And a lot of people said, `Did you ever experiment with drugs?'

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. LYNN: I wasn't experimenting; I was dissipating, you know.

SIEGEL: Mm-hmm.

Mr. LYNN: I'm sitting there in my front room--my kid couldn't even walk yet. He had to struggle to hold himself up to come around the table. He couldn't talk yet. And he's just standing there and looking me right in the eyes, you know. And what I was perceiving was, `Man, what are you doing? Man, you got the responsibility to teach me love and safety, etc.,' you know, right on, on and on. And that was the day that the seed was planted that gave me the strength to be able to quit.

SIEGEL: From the look from toddler son of yours, looking at you...

Mr. LYNN: Uh-huh. I said, `It's the baby's eyes,' you know. I feel like my son added years to my life.

SIEGEL: Hmm. Well, I hope on Sunday, you have a happy Father's Day.

Mr. LYNN: Well--Are you a father, Robert?

SIEGEL: I certainly am, yes.

Mr. LYNN: Well, you have a great Father's Day, too. And if you see my son, tell him I say, `Be on time, but know when to go.'

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: OK. Mr. Lynn, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. LYNN: All right. Peace.

SIEGEL: That's Lonnie "Pops" Lynn, who is the father of the rapper Common and also a once-in-a-while poet himself.

(Soundbite of "It's Your World")

Mr. LYNN: Be eternal.

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.