Common: Universal Mind Control (Album Review)

AllHipHop Staff

How does an artist who spent most of his career as a diamond in the rough MC stay relevant for several years before finally enjoying commercial success? Common has managed to do so with ease.

Finally getting his long overdue mainstream recognition with the assistance of his successful acting career, Common's eighth studio release, Universal Mind Control (Geffen Records) is not necessarily an improved sound for the veteran lyricist, but rather the same standard he has always been known for with an attempt to give it a fresh twist.

Produced entirely by the Neptunes, the album features a combination of laid-back lyrical stylings like the days when he was known as Common Sense, as well as more up-tempo tracks in which some come off a bit desperate to fit into a commercial category.

The album’s attention grabbing lead single “Universal Mind Control”, which samples Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock”, is destined to get major club spins. It’s the only club-ready track on the entire album in which there’s a perfect transition from the typical lyrically infused tracks we’re used to hearing from the Chicago rapper.

“Punch Drunk Love” follows with fellow G.O.O.D. artist Kanye West on the hook which adds another record to the Neptunes’ catalog of perfectly crafted beats. The merging of hi-hat sounds with electric organ interjections make this easily one of the top three tracks on the album.

Things dwindle down a few notches with the doo-wop inspired but still very mediocre “Make My Day”. Additionally, the similarly ordinary ��Sex 4 Suga” features Common sounding as though he used a combination of an 80’s style flow over a recycled late 90’s Neptunes beat. “Announcement” takes things back to the days of Like Water For Chocolate with Common claiming the title of being the ‘Alex Haley of this Rap sh*t’ over a simplistic organ infused conga rhythm.

Listening to “Gladiator” gives an atmosphere of classic Wu-Tang over a more modernized Hip-Hop bounce as “Changes” eases things down to a slower melodic tempo with assistance at the end by Assata Lynn, Common’s daughter. On “Inhale”, we’re reminded why Common is one of Hip-Hop’s jewel MC’s as he describes his deep flow and still being one of the most slept-on rappers.

The album wraps with “What A World” and “Everywhere” where the former sounds like it would be better fit for the next N.E.R.D. LP. The latter which features British vocalist Martina Topley-Bird, just wasn’t a strong enough closer and seems to have just been a last minute addition.

Although the album is stacked with both hits and misses, it’s still worth a listen as he opens himself up to a wider audience. One thing certain is that Common remains true to his craft and doesn’t compromise the essence of originality in Hip-Hop as so many others continue to do.

Common Featuring Pharell

"Universal Mind Control"

Universal Mind Control - Common

Common Featuring Kanye West

"Punch Drunk Love"

Punch Drunk Love (Feat. Kanye West) - Common