Common gives us a closer look into his life in his memoir due out this month. Common tells the story of him and his mother being kidnapped at gunpoint his father.
Check out the excerpt below.
When I was eighteen months old, my mother and I were kidnapped at gunpoint. My father held the gun.
At least that’s one side of the story. I first heard about it all from my aunt long after it happened, when I was already a grown man. I asked my mother, and she told it to me one way. I asked my father, and he told it to me another…
My father, Lonnie Lynn, was a Chicago playground legend. They called him the Genie because he’d make the basketball disappear right before your eyes then make reappear at the bottom of the net. At six food eight, he had NBA size and the skills to match. He was nice around the rim and had a sweet stroke from inside eighteen feet. But he talked back to coaches. He missed practice. He developed a habit. He was out of the league before his career really began. For all his gifts, he played just one year of professional basketball, for the Denver Rockets and the Pittsburgh Pipers of the ABA.
Around the same time, his relationship with my mother was falling apart. He was getting high, keeping drugs right out in the open on the nightstand. One time my mother locked him out of our apartment, and he shot out all the windows. When he was sober, he was a loving man, but when he was high, he was somebody else…
His last chance came with a tryout for the Seattle SuperSonics. They knew about my dad’s past troubles, and they were concerned. They wanted to know he was a family man. Problem was, my folks were separated, heading toward divorce. So, early one morning, my father packed everything he owned into the backseat of a rented Dodge Charger and drove to Eighty-eight and Dorchester in Chicago’s South Side, where my mother and I lived.
Here is where my parents’ stories diverge. “He took us out the house at gunpoint, handcuffed me to the front seat, put you in the back, and started driving across the country to Seattle,” my mother says.
“You and your mother got in the front seat with me,” my father recalls, “and we started out on Interstate 90 heading west.”
What could she do? When we stopped for gas, she says he handcuffed her to the steering wheel. When she needed to use the restroom, she says he stood outside the door. The situation must have looked hopeless to her.
My mother escaped with me early one Sunday morning. She recalls my father pulling off the highway to get gas; there were no plans to stop for food, no plans to sleep. She complained of a headache and asked my father to bring her something for the pain.
He came back to the car with a bottle of pills. My mother took two like the container directed then somehow managed to put the rest in his can of Coke as he gassed up the car. When he got back in, he took a big swig of soda then threw the can out the window. It wasn’t long before he started feeling the effects.
“Did she drug me? I don’t know,” my father told me later. “All I know is that I made the decision that it was better to sleep during the day and drive at night while you were sleeping.”
We stopped at a roadside motel on the outskirts of Madison, Wisconsin… My mother told me that my father had just enough time handcuff her to the bed, sit me on the couch, strip off some of his clothes and fall onto the mattress, his feet dangling off the edge. Soon he was snoring away. Once he was fast asleep, my mother says she started working her small hand against the cuff, folding her fingers in on themselves and pulling until metal scraped skin.
“Rashid,” she said in a stage whisper. “Rashid, baby, go outside and play. Mommy will be there soon.”
Something in her eyes must have told me, young as I was, that this was no time for games. I followed her instructions and slipped out the door. Her hand finally free, my mother followed after me. She made it to the lobby and told the man working there to call the police.
“Next thing I know,” my father no says, “I wake up and there are two policemen standing over my bed. One of them’s got a shotgun on me. The other’s pointing a pistol. I raised my hands up above my head and turned my eyes to the sky… That’s when I cried out: ‘Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!’
“It was all over the radio, the television, the newspaper. ‘Kidnapping,’ in capital letters. But I was in jail only overnight. They released me the next morning without charges.”
Madison, Wisconsin, is one hundred sixty-three miles from the South Side of Chicago and nearly two thousand miles from Seattle. The road trip, the kidnapping, my father’s dream — whatever you call it — it was over almost as soon as it had started.