LL Cool J, "Authentic" (429 Records)
LL Cool J knows how to play well with others.
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On his 13th studio album, "Authentic," he delivers an eclectic mix of songs with a variety of guest singers that elevate the material to a worthy listening experience. This is not a rap album, but more of a hip-pop/hip-rock one, hitting all the right notes from romantic to raucous to punk.
The 12-track record sees a roster of stars lend their voices, including Eddie Van Halen, Snoop Dogg, Travis Barker, Monica, Seal, Earth, Wind & Fire and Brad Paisley (not "Accidental Racist," thankfully. Their other collaboration, "Live for You," is a rock ballad that is enjoyable.)
From the sarcastically cinematic intro "Bath Salt," to the delightfully cheesy lust song "Between the Sheetz," to the vivacious, Charlie Wilson-assisted "New Love," the rapper sounds fresh.
There's nothing wrong with pandering when one tries to hang on to artistic relevance, especially when producing a balanced, intriguing album. Who knows, maybe that's the future of music and Cool James is still a pioneer.