LL Cool J's Un-Authentic return



Host LL Cool J performs live at the 2012 Grammy’s Nominations Concert, a subject he raps about in Authentic. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

Fresh off of his controversial collaboration with Brad Paisley on “Accidental Racist,” LL Cool J is back. While his debut, 1985’s Radio, broke new ground for the genre, James Todd Smith has struggled to find critical recognition since — though albums like 1990’s Mama Said Knock You Out and 1995’s Mr. Smith have achieved commercial success. Authentic, after many delays, is his first release in six years.

The album begins with “Bath Salt,” and Cool J very quickly reveals his stupidity. Over an unnecessarily orchestral introduction, the rapper declares, “I think this intro should be more dramatic…” before busting into maniacal laughing. By the time the beat drops, the audience is wondering what lines like “Slip into the bath salt,” and “hands on my nuts/that’s product placement,” mean. Regardless of authorial intent (or lack thereof), Cool J raps with an unmistakable tone of self-appreciation. 

Authentic is filled with gimmicks, like guitar solos from Eddie Van Halen, to misdirect the listener from LL Cool J’s lack of originality and sub-par writing. Also ubiquitous throughout the album is the 45-year-old rapper’s delusions of grandeur, ignorant of the fact that he’s been somewhat irrelevant since his first album.

The few highlights include Snoop Dogg’s laid-back verse on “We Came To Party,” apparently reviving his rapper persona in spite of his recent name change. The beats are easily the better part of the album, having been produced by the likes of DJ Z-Trip (Beck, Busta Rhymes) and Soundz (Pitbull, Trey Songz). 

Unfortunately, not even impressive production can save Authentic. “Bartender Please” is at least two minutes too long, crashing and burning in a chaotic shouting match between four speakers. The final nail in the coffin, though, burying what little promise the album has, is Paisley’s surprise guest appearance on “Live For You.”

Are Travis Barker’s 10-second drum solos necessary? Did LL Cool J need to enlist Tom Morello to offer his trademark minimalist guitar on “Whaddup?” And most importantly, did he really need to collaborate with Brad Paisley again? The answer to all these questions is probably not.


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