By now, LL Cool J's status as one of the greatest of all time is pretty much set in stone. No other rapper has had such longevity and consistency. With his twelfth album, Todd Smith, LL hopes to continue his reign at the top, and it's pretty much a collaboration love-fest. Every track, save one, features a big-name hip-hop or R&B star, including Juelz Santana, Jennifer Lopez, Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx and 112. And although the album has plenty of moments that reach the heights of LL's glory days, it's mostly a mixed bag of material, much like its predecessor, The Definition.
The album's biggest problem is that it lacks any coherent vibe. The only connecting element is that each track is a collaboration. Instead, it plays like a series of iTunes downloads or radio-ready singles. But there are definitely some choice cuts, including lead single "Control Myself," which features Jennifer Lopez and is one of the album's high points. This retro slice of pop perfection swims on some serious 808s and an Afrika Bambataa sample, solidifying LL's place on the pop charts twenty years into his career. If you can find a hotter track out right now, let me know.
Some of the collaborations produce some surprising results, most significantly "Preserve the Sexy" with Teairra Mari. This track finds LL and Teairra trading lyrical barbs, with L in the older-man role trying to get at the eighteen-year-old Mari. The track heavily samples James Brown for a nice, funky feel. "Ooh Wee" with Ginuwine is the sexiest track on the album, thanks to outstanding production by Scott Storch, and Mary Mary's appearance on "We're Gonna Make It" helps LL achieve his MTV Unplugged vibe and flavor. Tracks featuring Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx and 112, although pleasant listens, are rather forgettable.
With Todd Smith, LL Cool J seems more interested in bringing listeners a few hot club joints than a strong and cohesive album. He obviously enjoyed working with the selection of artists found on Todd Smith, but collaborations don't necessarily make an album worthy. There's enough here to justify a listen, but with LL's considerable talents, a little more was expected.
LL Cool J Web siteDef Jam Web site