Universal Mind Control is Common's eighth studio album. Originally scheduled to be released on June 24, 2008 under the name Invincible Summer, the release date was pushed back to September 30, 2008 due to Common filming Wanted. However, on September 10, 2008, it was announced that the title would be changed to Universal Mind Control and the release date was set for November 11, 2008. Later, the release was pushed back to December 9, 2008.
The album's first single, titled "Universal Mind Control", was officially released on July 1, 2008 via the US iTunes Store as part of the Announcement EP (sold as "Universal Mind Control-EP" in the UK). The song features Pharrell. The Announcement EP included an additional track titled "Announcement". The video for "Universal Mind Control" was filmed in September by director Hype Williams. The album was sold for 79 points (roughly $.99) on Zune Marketplace to help promote the album.
Billboard magazine has described the sound as "electro-tinged" and "techno-inspired." The album has largely divided critics and fans, with Pitchfork awarding just 2.8 out of 10, yet The Guardian gave it 4 stars of out 5; USA Today gave it three-and-a-half out of four stars;Spin gave it seven out of ten; and XXL gave it three out of five stars.Metacritic, the score aggregator, calculated a score of 53 out of 100, indicating mixed to average reviews.
While some reviews were positive, others were mixed or negative. Uncut gave it a score of four out of five stars and said, "Tough and determinedly sexed-up, here you'll find talk of beefs, booty and bitches, rather than brotherhood. Producers Neptunes and OutKast's Mr DJ oversee this exercise in alluringly modern hip hop."The A.V. Club gave it a C+ and said, "Common stops trying to save the world and uplift the human spirit, and gets in touch with his inner freak, with results that are often more bewildering than sexy."Paste gave it a score of 5.3 out of 10 and said, "Common's inability to sound sincere about a man he spent two years championing is the most telling part of this consciously shallow caricature of hip-hop's dregs."Slant Magazine gave it a score of two stars out of five and said that although the album "represents a serious step backward from the successes of his recent projects with Kanye, it would be remiss to say the album is the death knell for Common's career or that he has fallen off in any significant way." Canadian magazine Now also gave it a score of two out of five and said it had "no shortage of sick beats, but Common’s decision to dumb down his rhymes to a rude and rudimentary level comes off horribly crass at best and at worst downright embarrassing."