"Two-one-two, ya'll know how I gel — I came to rock it with my people here at Bucknell," Common rapped, and the audience erupted in cheers.
Common's two-minute freestyle, touching on iconic Bucknell and Lewisburg, Pa., landmarks, elicited immediate and loud appreciation from the audience at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts. As the final speaker of the semester in the Bucknell Forum series Revolution Redefined, he was making it count.
It would have been impressive for anyone familiar with Bucknell, but for a man who had arrived on campus for the first time only a few hours before, it was nothing short of astounding.
At times the crowd was so elated they drowned him out with their praise — but not for long. Common paused once or twice, but never faltered or stalled. He finished with this: "I came to Bucknell to talk about greatness."
"Find your path, believe in your path, live your path"
Common's message — to achieve greatness, you must "find your path, believe in your path and live your path" — was one of positivity, reflection and lifelong learning.
His whiskey-warm voice and good-humored honesty — he really wanted a Grammy in 2006 — set the tone for his talk, which covered everything from childhood fears to heartbreak, disappointment to learning from death, bombing auditions to working with Kanye West.
Common said his approach to facing challenges, whether losing a loved one or falling short of professional expectations, is to "look for the lesson in the pain."
He emphasized that, rather than measured by popularity or wealth, "greatness is what you do as a human being."
The question-and-answer session that followed allowed some fans to express their admiration, and others to ask Common's opinion on social activism, the future of hip-hop and how to start a career in music. His answers were kind and considered, shared with passion and purpose — as if to say, now it's your turn.
WVIA recorded Common's March 24 Bucknell Forum talk. It is scheduled to air on March 31 at 7 p.m., April 5 at noon and 11 p.m., April 9 at 7 p.m., April 24 at 7 p.m. and April 26 at noon.