Best known for his individualistic promulgation of jazz-rap during the 1990s -- a decade when gangsta rap threatened to take over much of the urban music scene -- underground rapper Common attained recognition for the sophisticated lyrics and ever-present political subtexts in his raps. Something of a critics' favorite, Common also achieved commercial success with such albums as Can I Borrow a Dollar? (1992, his debut), Like Water for Chocolate (2000), Electric Circus (2002), and Be (2005). During the first 15 years or so of his career, the Chicago native's filmed activity remained generally confined to music videos, performance films, and also urban and rap-themed documentaries such as the 2003 Soundz of Spirit, the 2004 Letter to the President, and 2005's jubilant Dave Chappelle's Block Party. By 2007, Common began branching out into dramatic roles. That year, the rapper landed supporting parts in such films as Joe Carnahan's darkly comic action thriller Smokin' Aces and Ridley Scott's period crime drama American Gangster.
In 2008 he appeared in Wanted, and the next year he landed a role in the high-profile sequel Terminator Salvation. He played the part of an scary bad guy in the comedy Date Night in 2010, the same year he played the lead opposite Queen Latifah in the romantic comedy Just Wright. He was one of the many members of the ensemble cast in 2011's New Year's Eve, and lent his vocal talents to Happy Feet Two that same year. In 2012 he appeared in the family fantasy film The Odd Life of Timothy Green.