Personnel: D.A. Wallach, Kanye West, Martina Topley-Bird (vocals); Maxwell Drummey (guitar); Jeff B., Marvin "Chanz" Parkman (keyboards).
Audio Mixers: John Frye; Neil Pogue.
Recording information: Camp David ATL Studios, Atlanta, GA; CRC Studios, Chicago, IL; Derrty Studios, St. Louis, MI; Electric Lady, New York, NY; Encore Studios, Burbank, CA; Fight Club Studios, New York, NY; Legacy Recording Studios, New York, NY; Record Plant Studios, LA; South Beach Studios, Miami, FL.
Introduction by: Joelle Ndiaye.
Photographer: Nabil Elderkin.
Common has done this sort of thing before--namely, coming up with a record so different in tone and musical style it confounds fans and critics alike. The unchecked experimentation on ELECTRIC CIRCUS had his public polarized and left some wondering if Common's future work would be anything like hip-hop. This time around, on his eighth LP, the Chi-town lyricist once again bucks expectations, with 10 tracks of Bambaataa-esque electro courtesy of the Neptunes and Mr. DJ. This is original hip-hop--as Pharrell's "Planet Rock"-inspired hook on the opening title cut should proclaim loud and clear for those old enough to remember. On the lyrical front, Common is as captivating as ever. In between the lusty club-bangers and throw-your-hands-up anthems, he comes correct with a lofty, extended-metaphor take on the Obama era ("Changes") and an inspired homage to Biggie ("Announcement (Sped Up)"), where he and Pharrell rework some of the notorious one's most memorable lines.
Rolling Stone (p.94) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[R]ap's deep thinker wanted to make club bangers. So he got the Neptunes to shape this sexed-up set."
Spin (p.102) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Common dazzles with the back-to-the-future motif 'What a World'....UNIVERSAL MIND is primarily a a rhythmic celebration, paying tribute to Afrika Bambaataa and Jonzun Crew jams."
Billboard (p.45) - "'Announcement' benefits from a slinky beat that lets the MC breathe....'Gladiator' is a great old-school brag rhyme..."
XXL (Magazine) (p.105) - "Promptly starting the party, Common spaces out to futuristic synths on the lively title track, a frantic, genre-blurring adrenaline rush..."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.106) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Cee-Lo collaboration 'Make My Day' is winningly dreamy, and both mixes of Kanye-duet 'Punch Drunk Love' 'make for fine, treacly bedroom music."