Common Universal Mind Control Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

A must-buy for avid hip-hop fans.

David Aaron 2008

After successful acting roles in Wanted and American Gangster, Common (real name Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr) finally returns with his eighth studio album – and the 36-year-old is at his experimental best.

Echoing his innovative, critically acclaimed (yet commercial flop) - Electric Circus (2002) – UMC is a melting pot of soul; synth-funk; and socially conscious lyrics – all executed in the Chicagoan's effortless style.

As with Finding Forever and Be, Kanye West is enlisted as beatsmith and guest MC on Punch Drunk Love. Somewhat predictably, the track employs West's current taste for autotuned, vocoder-like vocals – owing mostly to Teddy Riley's pioneering efforts with Guy and Blackstreet. But Common delivers his lyrics with vigour and rescues the track to shine as one of UMC's cornerstones.

The rapper consistently produces music that somersaults between underground hip-hop and commercial crossovers – and UCM doesn't disappoint. Cee-Lo's rich, silky, smooth gospel vocals smother the astro-beats of Make My Day - creating Common's most uplifting soulful offerings since 2000's The Light.

Elsewhere The Neptunes will delight beat junkies on Announcement - dropping a mish-mash of electro synth soundscapes and hypnotising hooklines that are smashed apart by banging machismo lyrics. The juxtaposed 4 Sex 4 Suga is a tired effort with a beat and title more suited to Britney Spears, and is the album's lowest point.

Other highlights include What A World - the 21st Century's answer to The Message – that submerges a vocal flow reminiscent of Grandmaster Flash - underneath a dance rock track that's sure to fill the dancefloors well into 2009.

Everywhere enlists Martina Topley Bird, whose trippy vocals punch away agreeably to the rave-esque beats; and serves as the best example of UMC's refreshing reminder that 16 years after his debut, Can I Borrow a Dollar?, Common remains one of hip-hop's godfathers and most progressive artists. A must-buy for avid hip-hop fans, both young and old.

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