For those of you that aren’t “down” with the “hippity-hop” and the “MySpace Dot Coms” the kids are all raving about, Common is a pretty established MC from Chicago, well-known for his politically-conscious raps and jazz-inspired beats. He’s iconic in hip-hop for his smooth delivery of gritty lyrics and is also established in the art of freestyle rapping. He’s one of those down-to-Earth emcees of the same run as Talib Kweli, Mos Def and early Kanye West, and has brought us strong songs with a street flair in the past like “The Corner” and “Testify.”
The album’s title and lead single, Universal Mind Control, is a Neptunes-produced club banger. Whether you’d expect this from Common or not, the metaphors and stylish delivery are definitely what fans like to hear. From there, the album goes downhill. Songs like “Sex 4 Sugar,” “Make My Day” and “Punch Drunk Love” are no more than cliche songs about sex, so loosely written that I couldn’t help but say “Ew” out loud and quickly hit the next button (a technique I have perfected over years of listening to bad music.) “What a World,” featuring the Trak Star-signed pop band Chester French, is a catchy tune about Common’s rise to fame. Once again, the lyrics leave the listener a little disappointed, as it’s more like a very brief summary than an actual story. Think of when you were in Middle School and had to do a one-page story about your Summer Break. Remember how you just sort of vaguely grazed over topics?
Yeah, dude. The song is kinda like that.
The only other salvageable song on this album is “Gladiator,” which follows the age-old tradition of a rapper reminding you how much better than you he is for four minutes. It’s worth noting that this is the only aggressive song on the album, and one out of maybe two or three that won’t put you to sleep or gross you out.
01. Universal Mind Control
02. Punch Drunk Love (Feat. Kanye West)
03. Make My Day (Feat. Cee-Lo Green)
04. Sex 4 Sugar
05. Announcement (Feat. Pharrell Williams)
09. What a World
Everything aside, Common can still spit “mad rhymez” over “phat beatz.” The single “Universal Mind Control” is also definitely still worth a listen. What happened is that Common just took a swing at mainstream hip-hop and missed. Lucky for him, I don’t think anyone was looking. Maybe if there were more than ten songs on it I wouldn’t feel so abused as a fan.
Score: 4.5/10 (High production values, but it seemed like Common simply had nothing to write about. Come on, only 10 songs??)
Lyrics: 3.5/10 (Songs were unmoving, even to a dedicated Common fan.)
Music: 6.0/10 (The Neptunes’ and Kanye’s production don’t disappoint. However, lyrics killed the end product)
Entertainment Value: 2.0/10 (BORING.)