Despite his status as a rich, happy, respected old-timer, Common has to rap about something, and on his eighth album, Universal Mind Control, he seems to be searching his DVD collection for inspiration. Just like last time around, when he told us his daughter found Nemo, he’s now comparing himself to a “Gladiator” in a song of the same name. Though his physique is certainly robust, rest assured he’s nothing of the sort—if his Gap and Lincoln Navigator ads are any indication, no one lives a cozier lifestyle.
Having established a place in the hip-hop pantheon with albums such as Resurrection and Like Water for Chocolate, the South Side Chicago native has been palling around with models and such celebrities as Kanye West and Pharrell Williams for some time now. West and Williams both get producer credits on UMC (as no one will ever care enough to bother calling it), and it comes off sounding as uninspired and labor-intensive as a Neptunes CD. The hodgepodge effort contains would-be club bangers full of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo such as the title track (“Charismatic/Asiatic/I hustle for mathematics”) and would-be seduction tracks more likely to cause snickers than arousal, such as “Sex 4 Suga” [sic]. “Punch Drunk Love” has to be the worst song on the album, one thinks, after hearing Kanye’s vomitous chorus and Common lines such as “We exchange like students/’Cause I study a broad” and “I’m the doctor/I can hold it till my patients is up.” But then one hears “Announcement,” in which Pharrell spits an unintelligible couplet involving Blow Pops, fellatio and Botox, and one realizes we’ve got a horse race on our hands.
“This is hip-hop, baby,” Common sings on the song’s chorus. No, it’s not. It’s the sound of a man who needs to take up golf.