Don’t worry, we won’t call it a come back. LL Cool J is perhaps the least talked about of all the rappers who were considered numero uno at one time or another. He had had a long career even before he started appearing long in the tooth in the early 2000’s. His catalog consists largely of novelty 80s records (the kind automatically deemed classic), female songs and a couple tracks where he proclaims those same things make him a greatest of all time candidate.
The problem with that is we’re not sure if he even believes that now…there was never quite an LL Cool J conceit, in that matter he was the precursor to today’s Pop rapper, the kind that talks a big game, is a chameleon with the times but represented commercial pandering more than anything else with his perpetually shirtless antics.
With that in mind he offers Authentic, perhaps as in an authentically disingenuous attempt to swing for the fences and achieve one last moment of musical glory. The 14 track CD seems like the purest type of vanity release, with little fanfare or promotion, and some artists (read: old industry friends) appearing on multiple tracks.
The album is 100% full of blatant attempts at top 40 radio play, with era derivative production and bland if not confusing lyrics ruling the roost. On the ambitiously produced “We Came to Party”, LL calls himself “the oldest man in the club”, and not in a self deprecating tone, moreso like he thought that was some kind of honor. He discusses not selling out and appealing to teenagers on the Monica assisted “Closer” but seemingly does exactly that with multiple stabs at female appeal devoid of personality.
From the sensual “Between the Sheetz” to a Charlie Wilson appearance on “New Love” (where LL uses one of the greatest voices of his time to soullessly repeat a 5 word refrain) LL tries to stick to his guns, seemingly oblivious or apathetic to the fact that music like this is completely trite and entirely dependent to tell mindless fans to enjoy it. The only way a song as confused as “Give Me Love” with Seal (Where Seal longs for love on the hook but LL shuns it in the verses) is for it to be shoved down your throat.
He left those opportunities in the dust over 5 years ago when he left Def Jam and the illusion that mainstream music builds it’s consumers. Perhaps in titling this album he inadvertently exposed the difference between stick-to-your-ribs authenticity and sugary, sick-to-your-stomach music. This is not a good album.