Review: LL Cool J - Authentic [Album]

Review: LL Cool J - Authentic [Album]

429 Records/The Savoy Label Group // ' I find myself skipping through the fillers to get to those few killers'

Review   2086 Views
Last Edited by: Ffion Davies April 29th, 2013.

I kept seeing LL Cool J's new album Authentic in the AltSounds 'to be reviewed' pile and I kept hesitating as to whether I wanted to request it or not. Then I heard 'Take It' featuring Joe, the hesitation vanished in a flash and I snapped Authentic up. With 'Take It' LL Cool J and Joe took it back. Back to the old 90's RnB slow-jamz that I grew up on. When I read that with Authentic LL Cool J was going back to his roots I knew that on some level he must share my thought on the abomination that is RnB these days. Gone are the days of great RnB songs, the artists still around from when I was heavily into my RnB mostly seem to be selling out to the dance world. Don't get me wrong, there's been some great tracks but we can't really call it RnB any more. I miss Aaliyah, Mary J Blige, Lucy Pearl, Jagged Edge, know what I mean. Now we have the likes of Kelly Rowland, Usher and Rhianna churning out generic dance hits that leave me cold. There are too few artists still hitting the spot though like Justin Timberlake's latest offerings and my goodness the new Pharell track with Daft Punk, but these are few are far between. So can LL Cool J bring back the goodness?

WATCH // LL Cool J ft. Joe - 'Take It'

Before I sat down to write this I had a few more reviews queued up first, but I couldn't resist a sneak at the track-listing - when I saw the likes of collaborations with Earth, Wind & Fire, Seal and Monica as well as Travis Barker and Eddie Van Halen, I got excited at the possibilities of Authentic, but I resisted temptation for once and let Authentic wait it's turn. With Authentic being LL Cool J's (AKA James Todd Smith) 14th studio album, the man needs little introduction really. His career starting in the mid-80's with the critically acclaimed début Radio and over the years he's notched up many awards including a couple of Grammy's and MTV Music Awards. But LL has been quiet on the musical front for a few years now, concentrating on his acting career with a lead role in NCIS: Los Angeles and some interesting film choices over the years too! Musically the last I personally really recall from LL was his duet with Jennifer Lopez 'All I Have' which, I'm not ashamed to admit, I really love!

WATCH // LL Cool J ft. Jennifer Lopez - 'All I Have'

Authentic is divided in to two sections; one of sensual, loving slow-jamz the other of flashy, bragging, aggressive hip-hop. Thankfully for me it's not a 50/50 split, more like 70/30 but that 30% massively impacts on my enjoyment of Authentic. It's a 30% that is sporadically spread throughout the album and a 30% I just simply can't connect to, don't really get and don't feel belongs on the album. So, I'm going to split my review this way too. Let's get the negative out of the way first!

Authentic opens with 'Bath Salt' and at first I'm thinking OK no worries it's just an intro. But no, it just keeps going as LL brags about his money and his possessions - it's everything I can't stand about rap music. As for LL's vocals they feel forced and far too aggressive for me. Next up in my dislike pile is 'We Came To Party' featuring Snoop Dogg and Fatman Scoop. Yet again it's distractingly aggressive vocals are exaggerated by the shouts from Fatman Scoop. The only vaguely redeeming factor is Snoop's breakdown half way through which, with his smooth vocals, really plays on the beat - however the vocals do dominate and unfortunately ruin the track!

Now there's two more tracks that tow the line of my Authentic split. 'We're The Greatest' and 'Whaddup'. They tow the line because again we're on that whole aggressive tip that I just can't get my head around. Musically they're great tracks (more so on 'Whaddup') but I can't help but wonder if that's because of the likes of Eddie Van Halen and Travis Barker being featured on each track respectively. Their musical prowess brings the tracks alive as they meld hip-hop and rock together - as we've seen so many do so well in recent years. Has this been done as well though? Probably not no, but it wouldn't be fair of me to just completely disregard these tracks.

WATCH // LL Cool J ft. Chuck D & Travis Barker - 'Whaddup' [Live]

So now we come to my preferred section of the album, the RnB slow-jamz, the tracks for lust, for the heart, for the lovers. Yeh I know what you're all thinking 'girlie or what' but this was what I was hoping for from Authentic. It's what I've been missing in RnB and as LL puts it on his press release
'We may not be teenagers any more but we do still like to have fun'
And fun is exactly what we get with by far the best track on the album 'Something About You,' as LL teams up with Charlie Wilson, Earth, Wind & Fire and Melody Thornton. As soon as I saw it on the track listing I just knew it'd be something special as the team come together for a sexy, funky, groove fest. LL doing what he does best; loving the ladies just like they love him. Essentially that's pretty much the ethos for the best part of Authentic; sex and beats! And there's some great beats on here like 'Not Leaving You Tonight' featuring Fitz and The Tantrums. It's very much your typical rapper/producer featuring a one man-band; think Timbaland and OneRepublic with Apologize. Another track for the ladies and the lovers but with a twist from a tasty guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen making it stand out from it's counterparts.

LISTEN // LL Cool J ft. Earth, Wind & Fire, Charlie Wilson & Melody Thornton - 'Something About You'

Another stand-out track is of course 'Take It' featuring Joe; one of my favourite singers from back in the day - nice to have him back too! A name perhaps you wouldn't expect to see on Authentic is British soul singer Seal, but they're a pairing that come together to create a beautiful and tenderly honest track as Seal's course vocals work well with LL's smooth and sexy drawl. 'Between These Sheetz' really takes me back to my teens, it could have easily been a 90's classic jam. It's really sultry and sexy aided by Mickey Shiloh's smoky vocals and of course LL's raunchy lyrics. Another track that sound like a classic is 'Closer' featuring Monica; perhaps it's because her voice brings back so many memories for me, but there's also definitely an old flavour to this track too.

Stepping away from the slow-jamz are a handful of more upbeat tracks - still filled with love and seduction of course; tracks like 'New Love,' with it's instantly addictive intro right through to the chorus supplied by Charlie Wilson, it's a great mix of old school and hip-hop to provide a potential club banger...go get your bump and grind on! With it's Bootsy Collins bass line and it's Travis Barker drums it's no wonder that 'Bartender Please' is on fire. Add to that the amusing lyrics from both LL and Snoop Dogg and you have yourself a pretty unique and interesting track, one that certainly sticks in your head too. Rounding things up on my review is 'Live For You' featuring country singer Brad Paisley. It's a beautiful dedication to LL's wife. Brad's vocals and the hint of his country style coming through works really well with the groove and LL's vocals.

As a whole album Authentic just doesn't completely work for me; get rid of those few tracks that just jar the ear and we could be talking about LL's strongest album since 1995's Mr Smith. There are some incredibly strong tracks on Authentic and it features some amazing musicians, however it does fall short of the mark, and I can't help but feel that some of the collaborations are there just for the sake of it and perhaps not the musical connection that would make it stronger. Bar a good handful of super strong stand-outs I can't help but feel a little disappointed with Authentic as I find myself skipping through the fillers to get to those few killers.

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