Monday, December 8, 2008

In Defense of Common’s Universal Mind Control

I may or may not write a full review of Common's Universal Mind Control to post later; emphasis on may not. That's not to suggest that I dislike the album, it just doesn't move me nearly as much I had hoped, and there are plenty of other bloggers who are more familiar with Common's catalogue that could probably deliver a more appropriate review. The fact of the matter is, I'm not a hip-hop head, and though I fell in love with 2007's Finding Forever, the rest of my relationship with Common depends solely on what I've heard on the radio. Still, I feel inclined to offer at least a bit of my opinion regarding Mind Control, as the effort continues to gather generally unfavorable opinion.

As I said before, I loved Finding Forever. In the months preceding the album's release my excitement surfaced almost out of nowhere, as I have never considered myself an avid Common fan in the least. Still, I went to purchase it as soon as I could. From start to finish the album is amazing, and while many fans will say that Forever isn't Common's best, I've never felt pressed to research that theory. That's mostly because I don't care. On the strength of its own merit Finding Forever is an eclectic yet uniform collection of brilliant production and engaging lyricism that invest more in timelessness than it does trend. Since tracks from the album continue to rest among my iTunes most played list, I was understandably eager for more Common via Mind Control. And no, it's not as good.

That doesn't mean that Mind Control is bad, but it certainly is different. While Forever was relaxed and approachable at even its most aggressive moments, from production to writing Mind Control is fast-paced and at times gaudy in its presentation. The lyrics aren't as interesting, nor are the guest-spots as inspired, but the record still manages to be fun. Considering early reviews, perhaps that's not how audiences prefer to see Common.

Without going on for too much longer, I will say that just like Usher had to grow-up and Kanye had to go soft, Common needed to let loose. I'll never understand why audiences equate difference with deficiency so easily, but I suppose that logic translates to other facets of life as well. Presented by nearly any other hip-hop artist, Mind Control would be considered a solid effort. It's not even that Mind Control is bad for a Common album, it's simply different from what we're used to hearing from him. There shouldn't be anything wrong with treading new waters, especially considering the underwhelming predictability of the music industry today.

Universal Mind Control is in stores this week. Listen to it?

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