You know, often we joke about how rappers these days, especially so-called conscious rappers, aren’t making any money and are all going to end up working with Bol at the BGM, but rarely do we stop to think just how real the situation is for some of these them.
Case in point, I was taken aback recently by an article I read in some Denver newspaper about the rapper Common’s father Lonnie Lynn, Jr. a/k/a Pops, whom you may recall from his guest “raps” on three or four of Common’s albums. Indeed it seems Lonnie the Elder has fallen on hard times. What’s worse, Lonnie the Younger hasn’t been able to do much to help the old man out.
Which struck me as odd when you consider that a) Common has had a career in the music business literally since I was in grade school, and I’m now several years out of college, and b) Common’s last album, the rather popular yet lackluster Be, produced by Kanye West and the ghost of J Dilla, sold something like 800,000 copies. That’s only like 200,000 copies short of platinum!
Lonnie the Elder left Common’s family way the fuck back in the ’70s, so if this was just a case of Common harboring some sort of Art Alexakis-style anger towards the old man, it’d be more or less understandable. But that doesn’t seem to be the case; according to both the rapper and his father, their relationship remained strong even while the old man was aloof.
As it turns out, Common just doesn’t always have the money to keep the old man from living on the streets. Common would help out with his father’s house note, but he could only do so much, and so the old man eventually ended up losing the house. “It was just a situation where I couldn’t financially compensate for that with my responsibilities,” the rapper explained.
It’d be difficult to speculate on his situation any further without being privy to his finances, but Common doesn’t strike me as the kind of rapper to blow all of his money on cocaine and hookers, which is what I would do. And like I said, it’s not like he hasn’t experienced a certain degree of success. 800,000 copies sold isn’t Billy Joel numbers, but by today’s standards it’s way up there.
The truth of the matter is that there just isn’t as much money in hip-hop as the TIs would like you to think. And given the current trend with regard to hip-hop album sales, I wouldn’t be surprised if stories like this one become more and more commonplace. No pun intended.