By Alfred Branch, Jr.

Leave it to Common to name check not only OK Go, but also “astronaut lady” Lisa Nowak.

The rapper/actor, whose latest CD Finding Forever was recently Number One on the Billboard charts, refers to the beleaguered former NASA captain in his new single Drivin’ Me Wild featuring British pop sensation Lily Allen.

Common and Allen have fun with the NASA love-triangle story in the new video for the song, which debuted today on MTV. In it, Allen sports a full astronaut suit.

This year has been a break-out one for Common. Not only did his album reach Number One, but he also has a small, nine-date tour starting next week in Los Angeles. He also had acting roles in the hit Smokin’ Aces with friend Jeremy Piven, and in the upcoming American Gangster with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. . .

Common is a supporter of animal rights and PETA. He recently appeared in a print advertisement for PETA titled “Think Before You Eat”. Common is also part of the “Knowing Is Beautiful” movement which supports HIV/AIDS awareness.

Following the release of Be in 2005, several mixed-race artists from the UK hip-hop scene took exception to Common’s controversial comments about interracial relationships on the song “Real People”, and in an interview. The situation started out with an article from UK’s Touch magazine, in which he stated “When you see dreadlocked dudes with white girls that’s like they going against what the dreadlock’s purpose was.” Seeing a personal insult in the remarks, Yungun, Doc Brown (rapper) and Rising Son recorded a track over an instrumental version of “The Corner” named “Dear Common (The Corner Dub)”. Common states that he has heard of the track but never actually taken the time to listen to it, and has not retaliated in song.

Common was accused of making bigoted statements during a concert at Emory University in 2006, when he rapped about his certainty that “damn niggers from Duke lacrosse” had raped a “black princess,” a reference to Crystal Gail Mangum, who had accused three white Duke University lacrosse players of rape. The charges were dismissed before the case went to trial. Despite his comments about the Duke Lacrosse Case, Duke University invited him to play at their last day of classes on 25 April 2007.

In 2003, Common appeared on the popular American UPN sitcom Girlfriends. In the episode “Take This Poem and Call Me In The Morning”, he appeared as Omar, a slam poet who competes with fellow poet Sivad (played by Saul Williams) for the affection of Lynn Searcy (played by Persia White). He also had a cameo appearance on an episode of UPN’s One on One, where he played a drama class instructor named Darius. In 2007, Common appeared alongside Ben Affleck, Jeremy Piven, and Alicia Keys in the crime film Smokin’ Aces. He made his big screen debut as villainous Mob enforcer Sir Ivy. He is set to appear alongside Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, The RZA and T.I. in the 2007 crime thriller American Gangster. On 20 January 2007, one week before the opening of Smokin Aces, he appeared in a Saturday Night Live sketch as himself.

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