Forever the journeyman through all the convolutions that accompany a Hip-Hop career, Rashid “Common” Lynn was never one to shy away from letting the music represent his current mood. In attempts to fatten his catalog with more accessible material to counterpoise the analytical content in the bulk of his discography, the concept of Invincible Summer was born. However, scheduling conflicts forced the album’s delay, ultimately spawning Universal Mind Control which is a zesty blend of electro-funk, retrospect, and occasional laziness.
Not as eccentrically irritating as 2000’s Electric Circus, nor as confined to uniformity as last year’s Finding Forever, UMC determines its own path by remaining bubbly in its entirety courtesy of The Neptunes and Mr. DJ — of Outkast fame. Which in turn, help build momentum and compensate for Common’s lacking in the vocal charisma department. This is best evidenced on the album’s first two singles “Universal Mind Control” and “Announcement.” The title track which borrows flavor from Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock,” rides a futuristic wave of looping instrumentation that looks to be the B-Boy anthem of the next millennium while the latter, finds Common and Pharrell bigging up the Notorious one over a funky yet subtle backdrop.
In actuality, consider UMC’s mission accomplished for the entertainment value it brings. Kanye West’s lone contribution comes in form of the catchy hook on “Punch Drunk Love” where Common throws playful jabs in attempts to get in the girl’s panties whereas the Cee-Lo assisted “Make My Day” takes a page from the Book of Gnarls, to administer groovy results. And although “What A World” features Common spitting like he’s possessed with the ghost of the Sugarhill Gang, the fly melody is sure to burn up dancefloors abroad.
As fate would have it, though, Common spends so much of his time catering to the Pop public that the lyrical content falls to the wayside, creating an imbalance in the force. The lazily performed “Sex 4 Suga” and “Changes” which masks its insubstantiality behind butter-soft verses and a heavenly chorus, weigh things down a bit. Even the lone battle track “Gladiator” suffers from rusty swordsmanship like “You frail on the mic like you won’t break a nail/I might smoke a joint but I won’t take an “L”…/you easy to take out cuz you hot gawbage…”
The fact that Common opted for the Pop route doesn’t imply that he doesn’t love “H.E.R.” nor is Universal Mind Control a total bust. But by equating carefree music with half-assed lyricism, it marks a slight disappointment that Comm couldn’t solidify classic status with a paltry ten tracks to work with.