It is hard to write an impartial review when you have a bias against an artist, but professional full-time critics of arts and culture must dig deep and use all available professionalism. LL Cool J is more of a top 40 rapper and someone that I normally wouldn't be interested in, but due to unforeseen circumstances and a new Russian Roulette Reviews feature, I ended up purchasing this album, so with that disclaimer, please read on for my best attempt at a fair review.
First of all LL Cool J has put together an impressive yet baffling list of guest features. Eddie Van Halen, Snoop Dogg, Seal, Earth, Wind & Fire, Bootsy Collins, Chuck D, Tom Morello and many more to form what must be one of the most random mixing of genres assembled in recent memory. Reading this track listing, one might think he is doing some kind of of reverse Chris Cornell Scream thing, but fans can rejoice that he has mostly stuck with his R&B rapping. It could have easily been a train wreck, but for the most part the combinations are passable but do feel tacked on and like lost opportunities. A great example is having Chuck D and Tom Morello on a track, it sounds like a perfect combination on paper for a political tour de force, but the inclusion of Travis Barker's random drum rolls feels incredibly forced, Chuck D pretty much gets limited to delivering the hook and LL Cool J's shallow lyrics leave you wondering why he even bothered in the first place. Whether due to ego or budget, most of the vocal features are limited to a few lines or hook, obviously in the case of Fatman Scoop you have to limit that shit, but when you have Seal you should be exploiting his vocal talent and fanbase.
I am all for lyrical tripe as long as you can tell from the context of the album that it is not to be taken too seriously, but as far as I can tell this is a serious attempt at the album and unfortunately this album is ripe with lame and soppy lyrics. I can't tell if the opening track 'Bath Salt' is about drugs or actual bath salts
Slip into the bath salt and wash my back, push it, never because I have to, push it, it's because I'm a bastard, push it, and I've got the game mastered...Looking kind of salty over there, why would LL Cool J be rapping about drugs that are apparently used by people in their mid-20s anyway? The track does have a nice beat and LL Cool J shows his rapping talent with his aggressive delivery, something which I was foolishly hoping would be built on throughout the album. Sadly things quickly go back to generic radio rap and R&B tracks with laughable lyrics such as
I don't come here that often, but it's totally awesome...shades on in the zone, Kool-Aid smile on my face...I'm enjoying your blog, I've got the same type of passion on 'We Came to Party'. LL Cool J must be commended though for opening up on 'Give Me Love' starting the track with
Honestly I'm affraid to give love, deep down I'm affraid to be judged, it is hard to tell if he is being sincere and things do get a a tad pathetic and very cliched (complete with "dear diary" entry), but LL Cool J the R&B artist works a lot better than LL Cool J the rapper, well at least until he talks to Dr. Dre about hooking him up with a ghostwriter.
While I tried to be authentic in providing an impartial review, Authentic is about as far as one can get from being actually authentic. While the music is passable and even decent++ in places, the lyrics are about as phoney and laughable as one can get. The impressive guest list only makes one think of what could have been and they just seem to serve as a device to stroke LL Cool J's insatiable ego.
It is worth nothing that the current reviewed version on eMusic is a censored one.
- Bath Salt
- Not Leaving You Tonight feat. Fitz & The Tantrums with Eddie Van Halen
- New Love feat. Charlie Wilson
- We Came To Party feat. Snoop Dogg and Fatman Scoop
- Give Me Love feat. Seal
- Something About You (Love the World) feat. Charlie Wilson, Earth, Wind & Fire and Melody Thornton
- Bartender Please feat. Snoop Dogg, Bootsy Collins and Travis Barker
- Whaddup feat. Chuck D, Travis Barker, Tom Morello and Z-Trip
- Between the Sheetz feat. Mickey Shiloh
- Closer feat. Monica
- Live For You feat. Brad Paisley
- We’re the Greatest feat. Eddie Van Halen and Travis Barker