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Beats Per Millennium - Common: Universal Mind Control

Common: Universal Mind Control

Most often when I’m driving down a street and approach a red light, someone pulls up alongside me with their music booming out of the speakers. Since I enjoy my music as loud as the next person, I am not bothered; instead, I sit there trying to figure out what song they are listening to. There are only two things I pay attention to: lyrics and the beat the bass is creating. And for some people, the bass is all they care about when driving. They think it makes them seem “cool” if others can hear how hard they roll. So really, which artists create music suitable to exceed the bass limit in a vehicle while also spitting lyrics that catch one’s attention? If you are having a hard time thinking of someone other than Lil’ Wayne, think Common’s new album Universal Mind Control.

The first thing noted about Common’s new album is the style of music. Most of its songs are head nodders as the beats roll hard from one track to the next. And of course, in songs like “Sex 4 Suga” and “What A World,” synthesized hooks come easily for him. Although it may be slightly different than Common’s previous albums that have a jazzy/laid-back type of feel, his lyrics are also quite a surprise for fans.

In earlier albums, Common mainly raps about social realization, situations with which many people can relate. What does Universal Mind Control concern? Sex and love – a common theme throughout music itself. It’s good for an artist to expand horizons and speak on different matters, but I think Common captures hardships much better. Hopefully he will stick to his standard raps next time.

But enough about all that. Let’s get down to the songs themselves.

According to iTunes, “Universal Mind Control” is single-handedly the most popular song on the album. The crazy, fast-moving beat is a perfect club banger. It’s one of those songs that is so energetic, you don’t even care what the artist is rapping about. All you want to do is dance. But since the title of the song is the title of the entire album, this means that “Universal Mind Control” is representative of every other song – different from your average Common, up tempo and harmful proof that he can create mainstream hip-hop like his fellow rappers.

Common must have been daydreaming of the perfect day when he created his oversexed songs “Sex 4 Suga,” “Punch Drunk Love” and “Make My Day.” Full of sexual comments and one too many shots of male ego, these songs have memorable hooks and a new wave sound that is frequent throughout the album. I will say that “Make My Day” featuring Cee-Lo is one of my favorite songs. It has a fun and happy beat that reminds me of one from OutKast.

After you get through about the first half of the album, Common’s music begins to sound more like himself. The tempo of the beats slow down some and his raps go back to real-life situations. Thank God. Common illustrates his pride for Chicago in many of the songs, but “Announcement” and “Changes” hold a deeper connection between him and his hometown.

“Announcement” is a tribute to hip-hop as Common raps, “Everybody I’d like to announce/ Throw you hands up when we in the house/ Yeah, this is hip-hop baby/ I’m fin’ to take you to the tip top baby.” The song reflects on his life in Chicago and what it’s like to be from the South Side. And speaking of being from the South Side, “Changes” is in honor of our President-elect Barack Obama. It speaks of the change we hope to see and welcomes everybody to the change in our future that is about to come. What makes this song so meaningful is hearing children on the track talking about change. It helps you to realize that this transformation is going to service our younger generations and lead the path for a better country.

I would recommend Universal Mind Control to people simply because it portrays Common in another light. This light may not be for the better of him all around, but somewhere it does him justice. He went about his usual album routine and threw in some more songs with less meaning. So what? It’s bound to happen sometime. His voice is still engaging in the world of hip-hop and I think we all can recognize that.

Mika Tatich

Posted by Mike Denslow at Jan 13, 2009 08:02 PM