Old favorite crafts new sound

Posted on December 8, 2008 by

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Jared Schooley

Hip-hop artist Common, whose intelligent, complex rhymes countered the notorious gangsta rap scene in the 1990s, deviates from his standard sound in his latest album, Universal Mind Control. Abandoning the sampling that made him famous early in his career, his new tracks sometimes edge nearly into the territories of electronica buffs The Chemical Brothers or alternative band The Arcade Fire. Despite Common’s shift away from the style that he helped popularize, however, Universal Mind Control can be called nothing but a great hip-hop album.

Common’s still plays to his lyrical strengths, and although a few earlier songs on the album like “Punch Drunk Love” are questionably explicit, the Chicago-based artist’s ability to produce slick beats and forceful, intelligent lyrics still captivates. In “Gladiator,” Common proves his confidence in his music without sounding as pretentious or vain as guest artist Kanye West, while “Changes” holds a strong, undeniably political message.

Other guest artists include Gnarls Barkley frontman Cee-lo, producer Pharrell, pop band Chester French and R&B singer Muhsinah. The variety Common shows in his choice of guest artists makes a statement for what kind of music he has dedicated himself to creating: not hip-hop, not alternative music, but good music.

Universal Mind ControlUniversal Mind Control this Tuesday, December 9 at your local music retailer.

is, above all things, feel-good music. Overall, Common’s efforts on this album are well worth the wait. You can pick up

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