By: Luke McCormick
“Universal Mind Control”
Release Date: 12/9
Record Label: Geffen Records
Rating: 2 out of 5
The hip-hop game is all about image. There is the hard posturing emcee, the conscious emcee, the hood poet emcee and a slew of other manifestations rappers have undertaken since the genre’s inception.
Since the beginning of Common’s career, he has been associated with the conscious rapper crowd. Preaching love of all things. While this was fresh at the beginning of his career, the star’s luster has begun to fade over the past couple of records.
The need to change his image must have been on the emcee’s mind when penning his most recent jams, because the things he used to avoid (misogyny, swearing, hood talk) have taken over.
Also, the rapper’s sonic template has changed as well. For the better part of his career he was content to spit positivity over jazz and soul samples, but this time around Pharrel brought a new bag of tricks.
The Neptunes weaker half (along with a few other producers, including Kanye) has provided the emcee with more than a few club bangers, icy synths and big drums included, just waiting to assault a dance floor.
For some rappers this would be a dream come true. Sadly, Common just does not have the swagger to carry a record full of ego inflating dance floor jams.
The title track is one of the most interesting things Pharrel has produced for a good long while. It is a mess of techno synths and skittering drums. It is just a shame it got wasted on Common. This beat would have been amazing with Clipse or someone like Dizzee Rascal riding it, but Common just sounds out of place as his laid back flow tries to catch up to the high energy beat. He sounds about as out of place as Blagojevich speaking at an ethics conference.
When he gets back to his roots, like on the Cee-Lo assisted cut “Make My Day” things begin to come together. The retro soul sound which the emcee has been on for the better part of a decade is in full effect. It is just too bad the rest of the record did not follow suit.
However, another record full of the same from the emcee would have been just as disheartening and uninspiring. At least he gave expanding his sound a shot, albeit a weak one.
Luke McCormick can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 275 or firstname.lastname@example.org