Chicago MC Common, the veteran backpacker favorite now making steady mainstream inroads, has always held his own as a lyricist, and considering eight out of his new album's 12 tracks are produced by longtime pal Kanye West, Finding Forever ought to be solid. It is, but that's it. It meets the lofty expectations now attached to any West production but is too by-the-numbers to exceed them. West loves recruiting current pop sensations as collaborators — thus we have Lily Allen joining Common for "Drivin' Me Wild." It works, true, but previous West efforts (Maroon 5's Adam Levine on "Heard 'em Say") left little doubt about that. As for the sped-up classic sample, this time West accelerates Stevie Wonder's "Black Maybe" on "U, Black Maybe." "The Game" employs West's familiar drumline sounds, pounding horn lines and steady, heavy beats to drive Common's diatribe on hip-hop survival. The four remaining tracks — three, excluding the 77-second intro — at least allow some break from West's enjoyable but rapidly tiring style. Will.i.am's "I Want You" is a sexy ode to a lost love, while DILLA and Devo Springsteen's productions prove too little, too late for an album that, unfortunately, is as much about West's talents as Common's.
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