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(Why Couldn’t Universal Mind Control) “Be” – a Common Album That Didn’t Suck

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Dec 15, 2008

Rapper Common

Common’s new album Universal Mind Control was a big step down for this immensely talented Chicago rapper.  Surprising, for an artist who years ago rhymed “The Game Needs a Makeover”. Rappers like Kanye West rep Common all the time, citing him as a major influence on their music.  So what happened with Common’s latest album?  Personally, I’ve only found one track that I really like (Inhale), and one more that is a decent club hit (the title track).  The rest of the album is over produced, noisy, poppy garbage with bad lyrics.

I can understand wanting to go for a more popular sound.  Finding Forever wasn’t the greatest album, but it was hip-hop (and solidly produced, I might add).  I mean there was a collab on there with Premier!  Now it all makes sense was packed with excellent collabs with De La, J Dilla, Talib, Mad Lib, Mos Def, Thelonius, and Nas. So honestly Common, what the fuck happened?  You had improved so much on Electric Circus and your other early releases; why are you in a situation where your second single will be a shitty pop song with Chester French? Yea this is a real “freedom song for the real people”.

We already posted some tracks from his new album, but I didn’t include Inhale so I’ll share it here.  The second track is from Common’s previous album Finding Forver, and features (without argument, the best DJ in hip-hop) DJ Premier.  The third and fourth are tracks from his sixth album Be, which is absolutely his best work.  I chose a song he did with Kanye West – if you watch the Chappelle Show you will recognize it, and another favourite of mine to give you a feel for the varying styles on the album.  The fourth, Faithful, is a particularly sharp contrast with his latest work – the depth and insight in the lyrics are telling of the talent that just didn’t come through on UMC.

Be is an album that anyone who likes hip-hop should listen to.  It is soulful, jazzy, poetic hip-hop with some of the best beats and verse in the genre.  It is one of my favourite all time rap albums.

“As men we were taught to hold it in, that’s why we don’t know how to be older men. If love is a place Ima go again, at least now I know to go within.”

[audio:Common – Inhale.mp3,Common – The Game feat. DJ Premier.mp3,Common – The Food (Feat. Kanye West).mp3,Common – Faithful (Feat. John Legend & Bilal).mp3]

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