LL Cool J is one of hip-hop's living legends, a link back to the days of Kangols, shell-toes, and bugged-out breakbeats. But LL is also a survivor, and unlike a lot of old school cats, he's still viable in the commercial marketplace, as the recent radio success of "Love U Better" proves.
"Love U" is the lead single from LL's latest release, the aptly named 10 -- which is not only his tenth album, but his tenth album for Def Jam; fulfilling a contract he signed with the label 18 years ago at the tender age of 16. Appropriately, 10 is a return to form for LL (especially after the ill-received combativeness of 2000's The G.O.A.T.), and the album finds him doing what he does best: Making relaxed, radio-friendly jams while giving the ladies a little something extra.
He gets help from the Neptunes on both scores here, as the Virginia super-producers contribute five out of the album's 14 tracks. Aside from "Love U," Chad and Pharell supply beats for the smoothed out, Kandace Love-graced "Amazing," the Marc Dorsey-backed love jam "U Should," the club banger "Clockin' G's," and the knuckleheaded old school goof, "Niggy Niggy Nuts." Longtime LL collaborators the Trackmasters get their chance in the producer's chair, too, providing the raw material for LL to spit over on "Mirror Mirror" and "Born to Love You."
LL also gets love from some old friends, too, including P. Diddy on "After School," Amerie on "Paradise," and Dru Hill on LL's touching tribute to the grandmother that raised him, "Big Mama (Unconditional Love)." But for all the producers, guests, and collaborations, 10 is all about LL, and he shines the brightest on solo tracks such as the club banger "Fa Ha" and the sexxxed-up "Lollipop." 10 may not break any new ground for Mr. Smith, but it sure is nice having him back again.
Great album 5 out of 5!