Monday, December 1, 2008

Sure enough...


Yeah I saw it coming. We all did. The nets predicted that Universal Mind Control would be every bit the train wreck that it is, but I'm gonna bitch about it anyway.

I've never seen such a cascade of change and experimentation dictate a rapper's career as I have Common's. I mean, the man is hip-hop's premier rolling stone. Despite the fact that he's never found a solid footing with any particular sound - opting instead to experiment with various different producers from album to album - more often than not he makes artistically sound decisions and his raw talent always shines through. Even as his flow has devolved over the past few albums, I always extended him a line of credit by virtue of the facts that he puts on an amazing live show and every album to date contains at least one heat rock symbiosis of beat and rhymes (yes, even Can I Borrow a Dollar?).

Yeah...he just put a squash on all that.

UMC's ten tracks are just not enough, by any definition. I have always been an apologist of the much-maligned Electric Circus, and this shit makes it come off like Illmatic in comparison. And it's not just the production (the Neptunes should be ashamed of themselves), but Common's lyrics and flow are prosaic and meant to invoke the Euro-synth-pop trash that he's aiming for with this record. I mean, "You call me Smoky and I'll call you the bear"? A song actually titled "Sex 4 Sugar"? Really, Com? What happened to that "Watermelon" flow? How 'bout that goosebump-inducing "Hungry" single verse?"

This album is just another in a litany of "experimental projects" from otherwise quality rapper/producers this year. The price that the Commons and the Phontes and the Kanye Wests pay is the virtual alienation of their original fanbase. But what do they gain from it? Excluding mainstream darling Kanye, I don't think that artists who are even flirting with the underground have much to gain from pushing it away. Jay-Z could come out with an album produced entirely by 9th Wonder, Jake One, Black Milk and Khrysis, and fans would embrace his "return" to the essence. But Com can't hop from underground to mainstream because he's catered to the boom-bap faithful for 16 FUCKING YEARS.

He's probably already reached his creative apogee. And frankly, I think his attempt to capture a new audience and reap the subsequent buckage will fail considering that this album was already pushed back several months because none of the singles caught fire.

Universal Mind Control is pretty much an epic fail all around and extremely disappointing considering who's behind it. This will be the first Common record in 14 years that I will leave on the shelf.

1 comment:

AP said...

I am bummed out about this now. Thanks.