Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Album Review: Common - Universal Mind Control


*Artwork was signed by Common

Earlier this year, Common made the announcement that his upcoming album will not be as conscious as his prior releases, and it will not feature any production from Kanye West. Common's last two albums Be and Finding Forever were almost fully produced by Kanye, and their undeniable chemistry helped revitalize Common's career. On Common's latest LP Universal Mind Control, Com decided to collaborate with The Neptunes to create feel good music. From the start of Common Sense's catalog, he branded himself as a smooth, lyrical, conscious MC. With Common's change of music direction, will fans find this album mind controlling or will it share the same criticism as Electric Circus?

3.5/5

The album opens up with the lead single sharing the same title as the album Universal Mind Control. The Pharrell assisted single pays tribute to the classic Afrika Bambaataa track "Looking For the Perfect Beat". The 80's, electric sound definitely makes for a great track, but the songs content gives Common's usual audience a different side of him when he drops lines like "Gucci, rockin, coochies, poppin/Movie, watchin, booties, droppin/Body, movin, showin, provin/Stylin, and bein fly".
Following the lead single, Common delivers a string of lady friendly tracks. First there's the flirtatious "Punch Drunk Love" where Kanye drops by for a hook. Next, Common collabs with the soulful Cee-Lo for the serene sounding "Make My Day". The final track in the set of the songs for the ladies is the unbearable "Sex 4 Suga". Common raps lazily over an electric sounding, clap heavy beat. Common's attempt to make a song to appeal to strippers doesn't seem to work with effortless lines like "I like the way it's going down/Hips are moving all around, round and round/upside down/I once was lost, but now I'm found".
On the other hand, there are other tracks off UMC that make up for mishaps like "Sex 4 Suga". The Biggie-inspired "Announcement" (which would've been perfect for the upcoming Notorious Soundtrack) and the triumphant "Gladiator". "Gladiator" is one of the album's most lyrical tracks, where Common swiftly delivers bars over a hard, jazzy Neptune instrumental. Another standout track is "Inhale". The melodic, synthesized sound is different from the typical soulful Common joints, but still manages to be well-fitting.
Since Common has a reputation for making mindful music, the album wouldn't be complete without at least one conscious track. The inspirational "Changes" is an ode to Barack Obama, and also provides hope to the youth and minorities. While mellow, motivational tracks were Common's past two closers, "Changes" is right in the middle of the album making it appear a bit of out place. Nevertheless it's a solid track, but it's far more suitable for an ending than "Everywhere".
In conclusion, Universal Mind Control isn't a bad album. There are some great tracks, and there are some that come off as fillers. With a couple of skip worthy tracks, the albums short length really stands out (total running time is 38 minutes). If Common were to add two to three more superb tracks, the album would've been better overall and overshadowed sub-par tracks like "Sex 4 Suga". I definitely respect Common for trying something out the norm and following his heart with his music. A real artist takes risks, and though this album may not be well receipted, Common is keeping artistry alive.

To Sum It Up In One Word: Open-Minded

3 comments:

M* of SunriseSundown.Blogspot.com said...

"GETTIN UP "! still love that song.

i think common album is what kanye did to his album. go totally left field, but left field is lookin good.

thats cool u met him , i met him for his last album, where u c him at

L The Hustla said...

Yea that whole Q-Tip album is sick. I met Common for the Finding Forever release too on Santa Monica. This time the signing was at Virgin Megastore in Hollywood n the line was crazy long. It wasn't as personal this time tho, just sign and go.

M* said...

how funny i saw him in sm, was it on the promenade when he performed huh?!!? yea dude is madd humble.

i thought my secret santa at was gunna give me umc, but i guess imma have to copp it asap.