LL Cool J - Authentic

LL Cool J - Authentic

Staying relevant for nearly thirty years in the rap game is no mean feat, especially considering the relative youth of the genre. LL Cool J’s music might not top charts like it used to and he probably gets most of his visibility through NCIS, but his new LP, Authentic, doesn’t deserve to be ignored.

Clocking in as his thirteenth album, you do get the impression that Authentic is more a business move than a labour of love, but LL still has the personality that made his name. He’s clearly a handy networker, if the sheer quantity and diversity of guests is anything to go by. There are no surprises with names like Charlie Wilson, Monica, Seal, Fatman Scoop and what I assume is a pre-‘Snoop Lion’ Snoop Dogg, but appearances from Eddie van Halen, Travis Barker and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello are interesting choices.

The opening track ‘Bath Salt’ has the devastating energy of his trademark hit ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’, and ‘Give Me Love’ is an obvious throwback to ‘I Need Love’, with all the slow-paced, love-ballad-y tenderness in tow. A whole bunch of songs on the LP borrow a thick dose of inspiration from his early work – he even samples himself on ‘Whaddup’ chopping the chorus of ‘Rock The Bells’.

These songs are enjoyable enough but you do get the impression that you’ve heard it all before. Even ‘We’re the Greatest’, the closing track, complete with Van Halen’s guitar licks and Barker’s thumping drums, doesn’t exactly bring an innovative sound. Between these tracks and the standard R&B joints there aren’t any shocks, although ‘Between The Sheetz’ is a definite highlight with LL’s super smooth flow and a murky beat with a bit of a trap vibe. ‘We Came To Party’ is a big hype track to get the people going, and the verses from Snoop and Scoop are basic but bring the energy.

Authentic is undoubtedly an easy listen and ‘authentic’ in the sense it’s pretty standard LL. It could easily have come out ten years ago, which somewhat explains the lack of hype it has received on hip-hop blogs. Nevertheless it’s a solid listen, featuring a few standout tracks when LL lets loose and gets into gear.
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