Originally, this album's title was Invincible Summer. The name change isn't over a lack of heat, is it?
The music as a whole felt like [it should be titled] Universal Mind Control. The record is feel-good music that you can enjoy, dance to and not think [about] too hard. I'm going to rap at the best of my ability, but my goal wasn't to show you why I'm the coldest lyricist.

Did your battle-ready role in next summer's blockbuster Terminator: Salvation bleed into the music?
When I'm working on a movie, I just focus on being a part of that world. But as I was working on Terminator, I got the Neptunes' beat for "The Gladiator.” It's a hard-sounding joint, which gives [the album] a grounding of who I am. I've been through a lot and I got the scars, but I'm the gladiator. Terminator's energy definitely helped in that sense. That's war music.

But why spar atop bubbly electronic backdrops everywhere else?
It's like sex: You want to keep it flavorful and fresh, keep your lady excited. I wanted to push the music forward and create a new sound. And I was blessed to get up with Pharrell and Chad; they were the perfect match to make what has the potential to be world music. I want people who may not even listen to hip-hop to know Common.

You've explained how Kanye was too busy with the Glow in the Dark Tour this time around. Is he a total no-show here?
'Ye is on "Punch Drunk Love.” He's just chanting, doing the chorus. He heard the song and was loving it, like, "We need to make this part the chorus!”

With such a sudden change of pace from your last two albums, any worries about an Electric Circus–like rejection by longtime fans?
I want the international level of people in Prague, but I'm definitely focused on the hood, too. Common fans know that I create wherever I'm at [artistically]. As much as I was ridiculed for Electric Circus, a lot of people came back and said, "We respect you for it.” And I've always believed that the hood is open to a lot of stuff when they hear it in the right way. —John Kennedy


Universal Mind Control drops Tuesday, December 9th