Album Review :: Common's Universal Mind Control

Common :: Universal Mind Control
(The Official Good Look Review)

38.1 Minutes
10 Songs

Imagine the playground at your local McDonald's was renovated and turned into a strip club, but they kept the Hamburglar statue on stage. Now, put a bookshelf in that strip club instead of a bar. Congratulations, you have successfully experienced Common's new album Universal Mind Control.

This album is an excursion into mind-tickling, rainbow-tinged electro-Neptunes land, where Pharrell finds only the frutiest of beat barrels, scrapes the bottom of them and serves the beat scum to Common on a pillow of fluffy satin. It kind of picks up where Electric Circus took off, if Electric Circus were a more terrible album with less balls.  Funny factoid: This album's original title was Invincible Summer. To meit feels more like a Vulnerable Autumn, or perhaps a Tender Winter.

When I first heard the single, "Universal Mind Control" back in the Summer, I thought it was the nail in the Common coffin. It sounded like a midlife crisis on wax, which it is, kind of. However, the video renewed my interest in the song, and next thing I knew, I was playin' it in my DJ sets. 

Now that I've heard the album, my hatred for that song burns anew, because it's a WHOLE ALBUM of weak attempts at party songs, just like that. Actually the rest of the album is two notches weaker than "Universal Mind Control". Except for one song, which might actually be the most genius thing I've heard this year. 

I'll get to that in a second. 

Let's get one thing straight, just as sure as camels can't play hockey or Dick Cheney can't be in natural sunlight, Common CANNOT make a party song when he tries so hard ("Reminding Me of Sef" and "I Am Music" are exceptions...he did it naturally). Let's get another thing straight....Common is a free-thinker, a philosopher, a wordsmith and an abstract poet. He's a vicious lyricist given the freedom to express himself without bounds. He's one of the best to have ever done it. Unfortunately, his immense talent does not offer him the luxury of driving too far out of his lane. And with this album, he has done just that. He has driven out of his lane, gone over the cliff, and landed in a ravine.

Alright, I'm done bashing. Here's the song breakdown:

1-"Universal Mind Control"
A well-intended, out but poorly executed ode to Afrika Bambataa and the Soulsonic Force's "Planet Rock". Very cool video, kind of a fun beat, very flat lyrics. Jay-Z makes party joints all the time with Olympian lyricism, so there's no excuse for this.

2-"Punch Drunk Love" (featuring Kanyeeeeeezy)
Lots of sex-talk. Pretty cool track by the seventh listen.

3-"Make My Day" (featuring Cee-Lo)
One of the more musical tracks on the album, provided by Outkast's own Mr. DJ. This sets the pattern of the most interesting tracks being all Mr. Dj and NON-Neptunes. Still at this point, Common is failing on the mic.

4-"Sex 4 Suga"
Will somebody put me in a garbage can, fill it with water,  seal it with ducktape and throw rocks at it please? After two minutes of this, push me down a hill. That is what this song feels like. The end of a great MC's career.

And the award for "Worst Chorus in the History of American Music" goes to this song! And Common continues to baffle me with lines like "When Com start buckin/these other rappers start duckin/fuckin' on the kitchen sink, bought my Mamma a mink". So the dude has shot bullets, had sex in his kitchen and bought expensive shit for his moms..... all he gotta do is buy a grill next and tapdance in the rain and the transformation is complete. The music is bland at best.

Interesting. Schizophrenic song....Common is trying his best to remind us that he can bust. But the problem is that at some points, the beat sounds like an army of rats playing a mile-long harmonica. During other points, the beat sounds like good steak and potatoes hip-hop, which is a sorely missed element on this album. You guys know me, I'm all about progression, but it was slightly refreshing hearing him trying to bust on at least one track. But all in all, this track is a clusterfuck.

7-"Changes" (featuring Muhsinah)
The most bizarre and interesting song on the album, by far. Again, produced by Mr. DJ. Here we have Common virtually skipping down a candy-coated road with rainbows  and starbursts filling the sky. A butterfly lands on his shoulder and he starts talking to the kids. Part of me loves this song, because it's so noble....he took time out from his partying to speak frankly to the children and inspire them. We need more of that in music. And Muhsinah's voice is beautiful. Part of me hates this song because it was ill-placed and surrounded by so much flat and uninspired material that it will never get the attention and discussion it needs. And alot of kids that need to hear it probably never will....

Back to the flat shit, but it's a little easier to swallow. 

9-"What a World" (feat. Chester French)
A collab with the white guys from Harvard who Pharell & Kanye got in a bidding war over because to them, white guys who can make beats AND play guitar AND make pop music is just too futuristic to resist. Not a TERRRIBLE track, and I appreciate Common's attempt to tell his story. I might play this in my DJ sets, but only after I'm good and drunk.

This would have been experimental on Electric Circus. But in 2008, this sounds totally uninspired.

I think Common has finally gotten this stuff out of his least I hope. And in a strange way, it's got me looking forward to his next album. I want him to grow old gracefully, but right now, this is mid-life crisis rap. I look forward to him assuming his mantle as a revered and stylish statesman in the game, and not the 40-year-old that just went out and bought a bunch of tight new clothes and a bright red sports bike because that's what all the kids are doing.

Fists of Oblivion

We're busy over here...and the future is fast approaching man. I think at the end of the tunnel, I see a light. And that light is coming from my laptop screen....and that laptop screen is playing a new kung-fu puppet cop drama called "Fists of Oblivion" which you can see on sometime soon. Sweet lord, when will the madness end?

UNAUTHORIZED Fist of Oblivion Trailer (via Tubefilter) from Tubefilter on Vimeo.

The Temper Twins....

Whaddyall think about these guys?


This Month, in The Good Look:

The limited digital release of The Nobody Hole,
ONLY available to The Good Look Members

Think of an artist. Play their song. 
Even if it's Philip Michael Thomas, you can't stump one of the sites we highlight.

An Intriguing Interview with this generation's Herbie Hancock

And a spotlight on a few of our favorite sites ...including

And LaBlogotheque

Look over to the left, try really is a good look.

Introducing THE NOBODY HOLE : A Halloween Hip-Hop Opera

On October 31st, 2008, The Good Look will make it's first official release..... a limited edition of The Nobody Hole. In celebration of the release and the video contest that's going along with it, we've posted the entire album here (courtesy of ReverbNation's widget muscle) for your listening pleasure. What's The Nobody Hole, you ask? Why it's a dark Halloween fairy tale....a hip-hop epic fantasy....some ill music....crazy visuals....and a vivid imagination, all wrapped up into one.

And it's only posted here until November 1st, and then it's for sale only... so eat it up. Enjoy!!!!
All music by Badtouch
Artwork by Doug Hoffman
Narration by Nzinga Kadalie
Story & MC'ing by Sumkid


The Creation of The Nobody Hole

“The multimedia concept album is an idea that has traditionally been better on paper than in practice. The Nobody Hole is one of the handful that manages to turn a big idea into a HUGE experience.” James Dunn, RIME Magazine

Hey everyone, this is Sum, creator of The Nobody Hole. I’m so passionate about this project, and so attached to every aspect of it, that it’s hard for me not to start gushing poetic straight from the heart about it at every turn.

In 2005, I started work on an album that was initially just going to be a series of nonrelated and spooky bedtime tales that complemented my friend Badtouch’s sometimes eerie music. Over the course of a long, dark year of writing in a Brooklyn basement, those tales evolved into one long Halloween story. That story became a wild adventure of epic proportions and an homage to the many influences on my imagination; from The Wizard of Oz, and John Carpenter’s Halloween to R.A. Salvatore’s The Dark Elf Trilogy and Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. I realized how big this project was going to be, so I took it a step beyond the musical realm and involved a few visual artist friends of mine to help bring my visions to life.

When recording was finally done in 2006, what we had built together was totally novel: an extremely visual, dark fantasy hip-hop opera called The Nobody Hole.

What is The Nobody Hole?

“As we place rare jewels in a deep setting to enhance their beauty, so nature sets man’s mind in dark surroundings, that it may better try his faith.”-The Nobody Hole, Act I

The Nobody Hole is a place where broken spirits come to heal, shattered hearts mend, dark souls find peace and the restless psyche comes to ponder. It’s definitely not Heaven, Hell or Limbo….no one in The Nobody Hole is dead, but nobody is whole. That’s why everyone in the Hole manifests as strange, partial renditions of themselves…because something is missing that they’ve yet to find. It’s here that the mournful consciousness can lament in peace, under the caring and watchful eyes of the Kings of The Nobody Hole… a long line of architects reaching as far back as Creation. It is here where our story begins and where Pygmy Paul finds out who he really is and what fate holds in store for him.

The Nobody Hole is a collection of tales and fables, woven together in one chilling and engaging tapestry of a yarn that asks “where does reality end and the imagined begin”?

Radio does Portis (heads)

Good look to Douchebagface for this one.... a cover of Portishead's "The Rip" by Radiohead. Def one of the freshest songs of the year....glad Thom and the boys noticed.

Find more videos like this on w.a.s.t.e. central

The Good Look


So this is pretty much where it's gonna begin for me. I had this grandiose scheme to launch The Good Look on a whole different level, but this makes perfect sense for the time being. So since this is about my career as an artist as well as all the other talented fools I know, let's go ahead and get this crackin' with no further ado. Here's a free download of my newest song release, "Chuck Norris on Drugs", produced by BadTouch and recorded in Brooklyn, October 2007.

Chuck Norris on Drugs
(Download hosted courtesy of Domination Recordings)

And here' s a new video from the homie Malkovich for his bangin Wild Style tribute "Like A Glove" (feat. Pudgemcee & Ali Baba Abnormal),'s the lead single from his album/mixtape Sicksteens (Dir: Nzinga Kadalie):