Common - Universal Mind Control

2009-01-27 17:21
 
Universal Mind Control
 

The answer's simple. After seven albums spent challenging the system with his impeccably literate thug life critiques and cautionary caveats of just where Billboard rap's lack of consciousness is heading, Common's finally got down to the business of making pop music.

Say what? That's right: P.O.P. music. Since hip-hop busted its way into the charts, entertainment - not edification - has been the real name of the hip-Pop game. And it doesn’t get more entertaining than unrepentantly X-rated rhymes that segue from grimy bling-rap catalogues ("UMC") and 'slippery when wet' linguistic booty chasers ("Punch Drunk Love" featuring Kanye West) to disco-freak funk fried come-ons ("Sex for Suga") and back.

Just how unrepentant? Well, how does a rudimentary rhyme like "Gucci rockin'/Coochies poppin'" grab you? Libido loose yet? Maybe. It gets more dubious. Hearing a wordsmith like Common rhyming "U can call me daddy, I'm a put ya to bed/An appetite for seduction/And it gotta be fed/Your sexual eruption got ya hitting ya head/On the board/And knock and screaming, oh lord" is a little like hearing Scarlett Johanson cover Tom Waits. Suspension of disbelief helps. 

Actually, the fact that it’s taken Common two decades to drag his audience out of the lecture hall and into the clubs is the real raised eyebrow here. The beats are fabulously fly, sashaying from pompous Blaxploitation space soundtracks and prêt a porter ramp rap attacks ("Announcement" featuring Pharrell) courtesy of The Neptunes to retro Motown fried romance ("Make My Day" featuring Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo) and brassy battle boasts that big up Afrika Bambaataa ("Gladiator").

The only moment where the party ever threatens to implode is on the awkwardly conscious shout out to Barack Obama, "Changes" which comes across as an apologetically clunky psychedelic soul afterthought. It's a minor misfire though with a sexily sleek duet with forgotten trip-hop siren Martina Topley Bird on new wave synth-pop breeze "Everywhere" finding the perfect foil in cyber funk mash-up "What a World" which pays homage to Chic's "Good Times", Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight", and Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" in a single slam dunk!

After 16 years spent cultivating his credibility as one of mainstream hip-hop’s most culturally conscious watchdogs, what the hell is Common doing rapping about the pursuit of booty, beef and bling?

What to read next: Kalahari

MeGS 2009/01/27 3:26 PM
Noooooo!! I guess that's what happens when you've got Kanye West as an executie producer. But I expected more from The Neptunes...
BB 2009/01/27 3:58 PM
am a huge fan & this album didnt impress me, dont think it has anything to do with Kanye, the album BE was produced by him and it was great. can only listen to 2 songs on this album
Sparks 2009/01/27 4:01 PM
Man, I copped this cd in December on the stregnth of Com's back catalogue. I was shocked by the subject matter of his lyrics. I also felt that his flow was a bit shabby on this disk just bordering on laziness. This cat is not 'hungry' (one day it'll all make sense) anymore. Its almost as if he has lost his focus or dare i say his consciouness. Due to the production (Neptunes) this LP remindend me of his other eccentric release 'Eletric Circus' because of its Neptunes imprint. The difference now is huge due to the fact that Eletric Circus was such a departure from his precious work and also did not sound like anything on radio or the 'underground'. This record on the other hand is flagrant attempt to get some mainstream attention and even cross over appeal for that matter (y is only black artist that crossover?!) Its difficult to recommend this album both to his fans and the newbies who are just getting to know him. For the fans this will be a major turn off if you had listed to Resurrection, One Day it'll make sense, Like Water for Chocolate, Eletric Circus, Be, Finding Forever. For the new fans, they will not understand why the fuss about Common in the first place if he is rhyming about 'putting his thing where the sun dont shine'. Herein lies the problem
Sparks 2009/01/27 4:02 PM
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Man, I copped this cd in December on the stregnth of Com's back catalogue. I was shocked by the subject matter of his lyrics. I also felt that his flow was a bit shabby on this disk just bordering on laziness. This cat is not 'hungry' (one day it'll all make sense) anymore. Its almost as if he has lost his focus or dare i say his consciouness. Due to the production (Neptunes) this LP remindend me of his other eccentric release 'Eletric Circus' because of its Neptunes imprint. The difference now is huge due to the fact that Eletric Circus was such a departure from his precious work and also did not sound like anything on radio or the 'underground'. This record on the other hand is flagrant attempt to get some mainstream attention and even cross over appeal for that matter (y is only black artist that crossover?!) Its difficult to recommend this album both to his fans and the newbies who are just getting to know him. For the fans this will be a major turn off if you had listed to Resurrection, One Day it'll make sense, Like Water for Chocolate, Eletric Circus, Be, Finding Forever. For the new fans, they will not understand why the fuss about Common in the first place if he is rhyming about 'putting his thing where the sun dont shine'. Herein lies the problem
JD 2009/01/27 4:08 PM
nah man Common, following in the fairy footsteps of BeP and the like? Who's next? J5!? Oh wait...
Nguni Stud 2009/01/27 4:20 PM
As someone who bumped most of his albums with the exception of the "Can I have a Dollar"; i do not have a problem with Common's latest offering. If you take it back to where it all began, it was Common Sense. That to me is what does it. He always finds a way to be in touch with what is the dominant sense or train of thought should i say. I do not think its a question of succumbing to the pop culture. I dont think i question his hunger, what has changed is the recognition he gets under and over ground nyaameean. Com be with Alicia and other fly peeps from movie sets so he's just responding to his surroundings. The man is no longer in the burroughs of South Chicago, he's a globe trotter and he's letting you know. That the global picture needs the ANC's Moral Regeneration Movement is another issue. In 2010 Common will outdo himself. I am not dissapointed at all. Kanye is anotha story all together and the Neptunes have always focused on what they did in Comm's album. No suprises for me. Just another Commonsense album.
Nguni Stud 2009/01/27 4:23 PM
Universal Mind Control just reminds me of the Humanist Manifestos (1, 2 and 3). The album is a mere reflection of the world we live in without Christ of course
msola26 2009/01/27 4:57 PM
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This album is downright wack. Common has long stated his intention to quit rap for movies and with this album i think he is better off acting (not that he is a great actor)but i'd rather watch him act than listen to him try to compete with the souljah boys of this world.
Quincy 2009/01/27 6:21 PM
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The Com' that most of us fell in love with, fell-off a while ago, he along with The Roots, Kwe, Mos ect. But I must admit that Universal Mind Control crap is a new low. I guess "he ain't hungry no more".
tshepo 2009/01/28 1:26 AM
remember when Com dropped the album "Resurrection"? the wordplay on that album was insane. Com will always be my fav, but he's an actor now and guess the hunger's no more. I won't listen to this album least it damages the legacy of Common Sense.
Mug 2009/01/28 9:21 AM
Common fell off!! Electric Circus was the beginning of the end..The lyricals are weak now, Yeses Common hayi maan...Its great that he is making money and doing cameos etc etc...but the art behind his music is no more...but I cant hate on him, he did what he felt was necessary for him at this point in his life.
Emile YX? 2009/01/28 9:50 AM
Hip Hop has many moods and flavours. It was always about everything and everything. back in the day you had so much variety of topics and sounds and performances ... Nowadays its the same old head bobbing, boring, self satisfying so-called heads that have no real clue what MCing was actually all about. As long as you giving these record labels 90% of your money ... its POP. Capitalism will not sell revolution. They market products, so he will get more attention this way. the real question is why the hell South African hip hop heads still spend all their money MUSICA and other music distribution monopolies, that make more from a CD than the artist???? How hardcore is that? How free are we when the same Apartheid beneficiaries are still making most of the money in South Africa ... We listened to 2 Live, Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince, Beastie Boys & Public Enemy back in the day. Hip Hop has all flavours. But real revolutionary hip hop wont be pushed by Capitalism, its counter their agenda... "common sense"
StickynOva 2009/01/28 9:50 AM
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I`ve only heard the sOng Make My day,,, It wasn`t too bad. Judging from the Hip Hop Heads comments.. I`d say my DemO Cd.."The Chasin Dreams mixtape" is probably beta than Commons Album !!! lmao StickynOva Taking-Over !
e 2009/01/28 10:53 AM
trance and house music is the best .. hip hop sucks ... hahaha
a 2009/01/28 11:01 AM
i neva understood hip - hop- the music is the same .. the artists look and sound so unoriginal stealing samples from 80's music .. where is the originality .. and they wear jewelerry like women .. singin bout ho's and nonsense .. take u to the candyshop ... hahahaha - what bull
Piet 2009/01/28 11:15 AM
You obviously only listen to hip hop on 5FM and MTV. And if we judged commercial house by the same standards, we'd be equally disgusted. Hip Hop, at its best, is ten times more articulate, moving, and 'authentic' than your beloved doef-doef music
OldSkool 2009/01/29 12:05 AM
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The guy's gone hollywood now. I guess he needs nore visibility 2 make it pop off...
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