Universal Mind Control
Common has long been interested in expanding the boundaries of his music, but with Universal Mind Control he dissolved the walls that separate hip-hop from modern electro, indie rock, and emo. The Neptunes oversaw almost all of the album’s production (with the exception of “Make My Day,” “Changes,” and “Everywhere,” which were produced by Mr. DJ) and their trademarks alight in the woozy fancy of “Punch Drunk Love,” and the piledriving pulse of “Sex 4 Suga” and “Announcement.” “Universal Mind Control (UMC)” and “What A World” contain the most relentlessly club-friendly rhythms of Common’s career, although the songs also hearken back to the old-school electro of Afrika Bambaataa and the Fantasy Three. Common still has hip-hop in his heart, and despite its messianic complex, a song like “Gladiator” shows the rapper’s fundamental rhyme skills remain intact: “Syncopated is the style that I fight with, write with / Mr. Excitement, change your face up like a white chick.” While Universal Mind Control might be the last straw for fans of Mobb Deep, the album stakes new ground that Common can share with artists as diverse as Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, and TV On the Radio.