Sound — 7
LL Cool J has been around for quite a while now, having started his career with the release of his album "Radio" in 1985. Since that time he has been really active, both as a rapper and as an actor. "Authentic" is LL Cool J's 13th studio album, and it seems like he pulled all of his tricks out of the bag for this one. While there are some tracks that sound like they are using old 808 programmed drums and midi instrumentation there are many more with authentic instruments. Almost every track on the album has guest appearances by other musicians/artists. A fuller list of guests includes Fitz & The Tantrums, Eddie Van Halen, Charlie Wilson, Snoop Dogg, Fatman Scoop, Seal, Earth Wind & Fire, Melody Thornton, Bootsy Collins, Travis Barker, Chuck D, Tom Morello, Z-Trip, Mickey Shiloh, Monica, and most surprisingly, Brad Paisley. There are 12 tracks on the album, which clocks in at just under 48 minutes. The album starts and ends pretty strong but throughout there are moments when my attention began to wane a little bit, only to get pulled back in the next moment. Musically, the album is very diverse for a hip hop album the beats actually have a pretty strong techno vibe going on for the songs that don't have a heavy rock vibe.
Lyrics — 7
LL Cool J still maintains the old school rap style that has made him a success. While modern rappers are turning to intense auto-tune and heavy processing, LL Cool J is still using very sparse processing, mainly in the form of mild reverbs and chorus effects. Probably the most outstanding vocal guest on the album would be Seal, who lends vocals to the track "Give Me Love". Also worth mentioning are the contributions by Snoop Dogg and Bootsy Collins on "Bartender Please", as well as Earth, Wind & Fire and Melody Thornton on "Something About You". The opening track "Bath Salt" borrows some lyrics from "Push It", but also has the best line from the album, "Got my hand on my nuts/ that's product placement." No matter how many times I hear that, it doesn't get old. Here are a few lyrics from the track "Whaddup": "Time to put em in the dirt/ somebody getting hurt/ hard time, gets rough/ I took a look at my life/ cuts like a knife/ What I have is not enough/ I got a lot on my mind/ cross the line/ Home boy I cut you up/ no reason to rhyme/ out comes the 9/ you lose your mind." And then from the track "We're The Greatest": "Knock knock who's there/ the one, remember me/ I'm kinda looking different these days/ don't you agree/ your boys' going big these days/ didn't you see/ the hell with the devil/ there's no sympathy/ the wishes in my past are still ridin' me/ all I can do is laugh as they lie to me/ you can't take my God from inside of me/ crosses up, light up the sky with me/ I get a lot of crazy crazy on my mind/ Like what's the real reason the pope resigned/ I got Van Halen, I don't need a bassline." So, the lyrics stay pretty interesting and LL Cool J doesn't rap so fast that you can't understand what he's saying. Pretty decent lyrics from what I've listened to and looked at on lyrics sites.
Overall Impression — 7
To be honest, I wouldn't have called myself an LL Cool J fan before listening to this album, and I'm not sure that I would afterwards but, I definitely enjoyed a lot of the album and gained a lot of respect for LL Cool J. I was really surprised at the level of Eddie Van Halen's involvement on the album as you can hear his guitar on several tracks. Approaching the album as a fan of rock more than rap, my favorite tracks tended to be "We're The Greatest (featuring Eddie Van Halen)" and "Whaddup (featuring Chuck D., Travis Barker, Tom Morello & Z-Trip)". I've also loved everything I've ever heard Bootsy Collins be involved with, and that includes the track "Bartender Please (featuring Snoop Dogg, Bootsy Collins & Travis Barker)". My least favorite song from the album is "Closer (featuring Monica)", that also happens to sample from the track "I Like" by Guy. The only other track to sample from an established track is "Whaddup" which samples from "Welcome To The Terrordome" by Public Enemy. I'm not especially fond of "Live For You (featuring Brad Paisley)", because somehow Braid Paisley's vocals give the song a boy band vibe.