Album review: Common, Universal Mind Control

Universal Mind Control (released December 9, 2008)

I’m sure this will get me in trouble with President Obama, but I’m pretty resistant to most change. I like my peanut butter with honey, my chicken fried, and my boy Keith sweatin’.

Um, that last one didn’t sound too good. Here’s a better example:

I love GSN, the Game Show Network. But because Kentucky sucks and it’s a premium channel here (and y’all know how cheap I am) I can only watch it when I visit my family in Virginia. But since I only make it home every 6 to 9 months, every time I visit the lineup has changed. Nothing disappoints me more than when I realize that 10-year-old episodes of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” have been replaced by 300-year-old episodes of “Press Your Luck.” I hate that show. If I wanted to watch cartoonish demons steal money I’d watch those corporate executives beg for money on CNN.

My point is, why screw with the lineup when you have a winning formula?

And that brings me to Common. He’s been on a quite a roll the last few years, dropping the critically acclaimed Be in 2005 and the pretty good Finding Forever in ’07. But for his latest release, Universal Mind Control, he strays away from the path of those last two albums, and the results aren’t too good.

The most noticeable change is the lack of production from Kanye West. And seeing that Kanye has lost his mind, that’s for the best. The Neptunes handle the bulk of the beats here, and unfortunately they don’t compliment Com’s style. The title track “Universal Mind Control” is tailor-made for the clubs, but the beat drowns out Common’s flow. In fact, he seems to be in competition with the production throughout the entire album. That’s especially bad when most of the beats sound like N.E.R.D.’s leftovers.

Another thing I’ve noticed – half the album is concerned with getting into some lady’s pants. Common’s never been shy about showing his sensitive side, but on tracks like “Punch Drunk Love” and “Sex 4 Suga” he’s just begging for the booty. Get this man a girlfriend.

Com eventually returns to form about halfway through the disc. “Inhale” is vintage Common, and he spits with some serious fire and vigor on “Gladiator” – “Though I might have did ‘The Light,’ I don’t run from the dark/the Dark Knight to spark mics and start fights/The warrior archetype like Kimbo Slice” – now THAT’S my boy!

“Announcement,” which sounds like something from late-90s LL Cool J, isn’t horrible, but it’s far from memorable. And in the last verse, he’s STILL chasing the ladies in the most embarrassing way – “Broads say ‘Are you a philosopher?’/Yeah, yeah, I philosophize on top of ya!” Huh?

Weird new sex addiction aside, I understand Common’s need to try something new. There are a ton of artists who would do well to change things up. But I say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Best tracks: “Gladiator,” “Inhale” and, um… “Announcement”? I guess.

3 stars out of 5



  1. No you know Common’s my boy, but I probably would’ve rated this 2 stars. It’s creative, but yes, it lacks the substance that I’ve come to expect from Common. CDs like this is the reason why I love Itunes. You can download the song(s) that sound good, lol.

  2. *pardon my typo.

  3. It’s like he made this album one night after he got home from the club.

  4. Wow even 3 stars is mighty generous! I heard Sex 4 Suga and that was enough for me, I can’t listen to the rest of it. I’ve read a lot of lyrics on the web, and it like made me mad! I have better things to waste my money on. I think Common will snap back though, that is unless Hollywood doesn’t snatch him away 4ever.

  5. LOL…OK, I’m sorry but you and that fried chicken!!

    I haven’t really listened to this one but I had heard that it was a departure from his norm. And as for Kanye losing his mind…that’s another story all in itself.

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