Album: Common, Universal Mind Control, (G.O.O.D./Geffen)

Endless summer: Common and Pharrell join forces

For his eighth album, one of the leading lights of conscious hip-hop has pulled out the big guns.

It's produced almost entirely by the Neptunes, and features guest spots by Kanye West, Cee-Lo Green and Pharrell Williams (no fewer than four times). Common has admitted that 'Universal Mind Control' was meant to be released in the summer, and in darkest December its qualities will be stretched to the limit. Which is bad news for the booty-bouncing "Sex 4 Sugar" and the pugnacious "Gladiator", but they may have the legs to last till it's warm enough to wind down your windows. Those two are, in any case, atypical. Much of 'Universal Mind Control' finds the Neptunes in a mellow-yellow mood we've heard only fleetingly since N.E.R.D's debut album. The outstanding moment, though, is the Barack Obama-celebrating "Changes". It's perhaps surprising that a rapper who has gone on record as opposing interracial relationships should back a mixed-race president, but maybe he's changed his mind.

Pick of album: Summertime love: 'Changes'

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