LL Cool J - Authentic

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3.69

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"Authentic" has the same flaws as LL's other late-career missteps. Too many features and a superficial brand of R&B bog down one of Rap's earliest superstars.

Authentic serves as LL Cool J’s first album in five years as well as his first sans a Def Jam backing. In between his continued role as Special Agent Sam Hannah on “NCIS: Los Angeles” and a second consecutive year hosting the Grammy’s, one of Hip Hop’s earliest pop-stars seems intent on reminding the entertainment industry how he first entered the spotlight nearly 30 years ago. A young LL originally broke ground with his signature blend of tough-guy bravado and whispering loverboyness in the late ‘80s, transitioning into the dual role of rapper-actor in the early ‘90s. The Queens emcee’s career has lately been defined by his TV and film appearances more than his music. Still, the rapper’s early classics and songs like “4, 3, 2, 1” from his 1997 album Phenomenon hold a special place in Hip Hop history (not only for its booming features but also for spawning LL’s famous feud with Canibus). In some ways, another LL record is an inspiring display of Hip Hop longevity—it’s hard to imagine another artist who’s had albums executive produced by Rick Rubin, Marley Marl and 50 Cent—but at the same time, Authentic, particularly with it’s originally cringe-worthy working title, Authentic Hip Hop, seems more caught up with reminding listeners of its star’s continued relevance than it is about the music itself.

The album opens with a bouncy and synth-driven club production that finds LL referencing, strangely enough, bath salts. Maybe there’s a cleverly hidden metaphor or innuendo lying within, but it’s hard to read too far into (or not laugh at) his mix of aggressive delivery and strangely random bars: “Slip into the bath salts / Not because I have to / It’s because I’m a bastard / And I got the game mastered / Eardrums are dealing with harassment...” The next track, featuring LA-based pop group Fitz and The Tantrums, features slightly cheesy and ‘80’s-tinged drum programming alongside an unoriginally anthemic hook (a similar ‘80’s aesthetic, and not the one LL launched his career with, plagues the later track “Give Me Love” featuring Seal). The rapping here, like much of the rest of the album, is simple but on point despite the staleness of the content itself. Authentic largely jumps back and forth between romantically intimate tracks like “Closer,” featuring Monica—most of which end up sounding generically similar and lack nuance—and in-your-face bragging on songs like “Whaddup” without ever settling into a logical groove. The album’s best stretch finds LL in a convincing niche of adult contemporary R&B that first begins with an Earth, Wind & Fire feature on “Something About You” and leads into the Bootsy Collins helmed “Bartender Please.” Still, a total of six features on these two tracks, even when anchored by the previously mentioned R&B and Funk legends, ends up feeling overloaded and busy. Ultimately, there are too many features to mention—four artists pull two separate features each on a 12 song record—but the token appearances of Eddie Van Halen and Snoop Dogg—both of whose initial spots sound tired and uninspired—are particularly grinding. Thankfully, the Brad Paisley-assisted “Live For You” closes out the album. While still corny in its lyricism and execution (“No matter how you feel, where you are / Just know that I love you girl, I do / They tried to say I wasn’t good enough / But I swear you won’t find another / Just know that I love you girl, I do / I live for you…”), it manages to at least escape the infamy of their other recent collaboration “Accidental Racist.”

After building nearly half of his musical career on a brand of sentimental R&B Rap—a venture that originally landed him criticisms of being too soft—it’s hard to knock LL’s choice of subject matter. The problem is that even when leaning on this admittedly repetitive content, LL seems either entirely out of pocket or plain-old complacent. Worse, overall the production leans towards an unexciting blend of Pop-Rap. Unfortunately, Authentic suffers the same fate as LL’s other late-career missteps: too many features and a superficial brand of R&B bog down another release from one of rap’s earliest superstars.

104 Comments

  • white boi

    Wackest album of the year coming from a veteran in the rap game.

  • Yace

    The worst album of LL. very disapointed.

  • olef

    very strong album with a huge variety of songs, especially the bonus edition! 5/5

  • king

    King of RAP is back! 5/5

  • jrock

    Driving my 18 year son home from college and questions me "whos this?" I tell him its called Bath salt by ll cool j. He replied "this shit is banging". Then he hears a couple more tracks from the album.A day later i hear the whole album coming from his bedroom. LL still got game!! Nuff said.

  • scary

    nice 90s sound with sick rapping by LL! alot of bangers on that record, especially with the bonus tracks

  • hardashell

    album rocks, legendary artist!

  • dre

    good album. if you aint 30+ this album aint for you

  • feele

    amazing album! thats some nice music

  • boy

    King of Pop = MJ Queen of Pop = Madonna King of Rap = LL COOL J epic album

  • weaaoy

    young ppl dont know what is good ;) this album rox!

  • Anonymous

    Album is Garbage!Take it is my joint though

  • daabbot

    when is listened to this album the first thing i thought was this is a grown folks rap album. he made it for people his age. its almost r&b. it is a solid outing but it alienates alot of younger people.

  • terrifc

    LL is hard as hell, especially in 2013! very nice album

  • PJ

    LL is back and finally hiphop!

  • yyeas

    tasty beats and nice rapping. best rap release this year!

  • starmani

    seems like hes trying too hard on this one

  • AONHipHop

    Grown man hip hop

  • asyx

    album rocks! 4/5 imo

  • dd

    its logical that LL COOL J gets smashed from critics. hes 30years in business and keeps rocking the business, hes the only one with Snoop Dogg, who knows how hiphop should sound like in 2013! 90% of Authentic sounds rly good and well produced, same goes for his vocals/rhymes. "between the sheetz" and "closer" are the weaker songs, but the rest is insanity and brings a FRESH 90s sound!!! i love that legends like michael jackson received bad reviews/critics too, even tho his albums were classics. LL isnt too old, he just proves that hes easily the best rapper out there. 4,5/5 STARS!

  • Lil B

    Someone tell LL's old ass to sit down, he can't do it like he used too, its over man.

  • dd

    COOL J IS THE KING 4/5 stars easily man...

  • Anonymous

    LL Hell yeah. Kids can have their cheeseball commercial '00 shithop. I'll take some more LL.

  • Anonymous

    this album is SWEATY STINKY ASS CHEEKS

  • asd

    "it was meant to be, hiphop died - reincarnated through me" (C) LL COOL J 2013 on "jump on it" LL COOL J URE RIGHT! i love u

  • R.

    Not the best, but they are the greatest! EVH#1 Ll Cool J still flowss

  • Anonymous

    why can't this dude craft a lyrical rap album with production from rick rubin. its not like he's gonna sell records with this rnb shit.

  • smh

    huge LL fan, but this album was trash. LL is just too mainstream in everything now

    • ConradAnthony

      This is definitely not corny and mainstream like Macklemore.

    • Anonymous

      how the fuck is macklemore a mainstream... listen to his fucking album before you think and type. smh.

    • asd

      u kidding right? wheres that mainstream? thats totally different of what a rapper could have done. mainstream are nicki minaj, macklemore, will.i.am. but this album just flows and crushes them easily.

  • ugh

    this album is a piece of shit

  • Anonymous

    the album was just a total crap!

  • Anonymous

    HHDX been known for hating on LL COOL J!!!

  • psy

    all these legends had one problem. CRITICS michael jackson received hater reviews aswell on his last 2-3 albums - why? cause he was far ahead of the whole business and most people couldnt deal with that. same goes for LL Cool J, hes ahead of time and shows how hiphop should sound in 2013. well done! 4/5 stars, 1 star missing cause of the tracks "closer" and "between the sheetz" ... not my cup of tea!

  • tyrone

    yea why didnt u review the deluxe edition? the 4 bonus tracks are bomb! anyway this album is underrated as hell, prolly cuz of the hate...

    • Mr. Logic

      Umm... if 4 bonus tracks are all you have in defense of this lackluster album, then you really need to quit while you're behind. Love LL, but do hasn't had anything dope since "Love You Better" and "Headsprung".

  • OS

    Man take it is an absolute banger! track is a time machine.

  • joel

    You should reviewed the deluxe edition. Bonus track are the best on the album (Take it, Jump on it and Remember me).

  • skruta

    This album is very good. DX dont understand music. LL is real old - school. I give 4/5

  • Anonymous

    GOT DAME HIPHOPDX GET YOUR SHIT RIGHT DISSING LL COOL-J LIKE DAT HE PRETTY MUCH INVENTED THE GAME YOUR IGNORANCE HURTS ME BEEN LISTENING TO DIS CAT 4EVA NEVER MADE A BAD RECORD AND NOW YOU GIVE HIM A SHI RATING EVERYONE HERE MUST BE LISTEN TO SHIT LIKE MACK MILLERS AND DRAKE WHAT A FUCIN JOKE TIHS IS INDEED AUTHENTIC SHIT MAY_B A LITTLE TO AUTHENTIC 4U ALL THESE SOFT ASS POSAS OUT DERE LISTENING TO THESE LIL B IM GAY RAPPERZ HIP HOP IS SPINNIN OUTTA CONTROL !!!!!!!

  • Hip Hop

    DX please take my name out of your domain as this review clearly proves you do not understand me

  • beezlebud

    Another Anti LL review from a corny kid from the American suburbs who got their introduction to Hip Hop from an Eminem song on MTV this sites a piss take

  • Pharaoh

    shocker HHDX shits on an LL Cool J album, who could of possibly predicted this; oh wait I did just a couple weeks ago but if Slaughterhouse drops a piece of shit pop album produced by Eminem they give it 4 stars or if Jay Z drops some wack shit it's an instant 4 stars this sites reviewers are such fucking dick riders and haters two terms I hate but are 100% appropriate here it's fucking disgusting

  • ...?

    Content: 1.5/5 Guest Spots: 1.5/5 Lyrics: 2/5 MC: 1.5/5 Production: 2.5/5

    • Anonymous

      "Illmatic, It Was Written, Stillmatic"

    • SDK

      @...? NO NAS ALBUM ?

    • ...?

      It's weird then that the albums are put in order of artists alphabetical name then the albums alphabetical title, it's almost like that's how I organised my shelf? Also if I was just going to Google hip-hop albums wouldn't I just throw Rakim, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, old Ice Cube, NWA, Slick Rick, Gang Starr, Big Pun, KRS-One, Canibus, Mobb Deep, Ras Kass, Big L & Immortal Technique albums in????

    • troll

      lol that macklemore fanboy is hilarious :D he should go and write a book about "how to google hiphop albums and copy&paste them". a guy like u should be banned from any site which got "hiphop" in its name.

    • jay

      the heist is worse than rihannas latest album xD some white guy trying to rap and fails at it. who wants to hear that? production is made by toys'r'us instruments, nice! every 9yo could rap better, stupid wannabe rapping.

    • ...?

      Hmmm that's weird, I'll name some albums on my shelf... All Eyez on Me, Me Against the World, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, Control System, Blue Chips, Rare Chandeliers, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, 4eva N a Day, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, Return of 4Eva, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, Below the Heavens, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, The Undisputed Truth, Hell Hath No Fury, Be, Finding Forever, Like Water for Chocolate, One Day It'll All Make Sense, A Piece of Strange, Dirty Acres, Oneirology, CZARFACE, XXX, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, 2001, The Chronic, eLmatic, The Preface, The Marshall Mathers LP, The Slim Shady LP, Boy Meets World, The Score, The Documentary, Apollo Kids, Bulletproof Wallets, FishScale, Ironman, Supreme Clientele, Twelve Reasons to Die, Ode to the Ghetto, Dice Game, Beneath the Surface, Liquid Swords, Donuts, The Shining, Champion Sound, American Gangster, The Black Album, The Blueprint, Reasonable Doubt, The College Dropout, Graduation, Late Registration, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, good kid, m.A.A.d city, Section.80, R.A.P. Music, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, The Listening, The Minstrel Show, A Long Hot Summer, MA Doom: Son of Yvonne, Tical, Blackout!, Black on Both Sides, The Ecstatic, The Final Adventure, Murray's Revenge, Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition, Illmatic, It Was Written, Stillmatic, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, Life After Death, Ready to Die, Trophies, Aquemini, ATLiens, Stankonia, Desire, Internal Affairs, W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), Charity Starts at Home, The Renaissance, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II, Revolutions per Minute, Train of Thought, REBELutionary, Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme, Blue Collar, Game Theory, How I Got Over, Phrenology, Rising Down, Things Fall Apart, undun, Bobby Digital in Stereo, Digital Bullet, The Greatest Story Never Told, The Fix, Habits & Contradictions, Fantastic, Vol. 2, Doggystyle, Eardrum, Quality, The Low End Theory, Midnight Marauders, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), The W, Wu-Tang Forever, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. AND THE HEIST!

    • asdf

      macklemore is for new-wave hipsters which usually listen to justin bieber / selena gomez / will.i.am / bruno mars. mainstream takes over hiphop, sad stuff!

    • Macklemore x Ryan Lewis - The Heist

      Content: 4.5/5 Guest Spots: 4/5 Lyrics: 4/5 MC: 4/5 Production: 3.5/5

    • adam

      go and listen to ur wacklemore shit, where everything is 0/5.

  • Anonymous

    I cant bring myself to hate on a man who did so much for the game, so I'll go light and just say its not one of his finer moments

  • Mortis

    Recommendation for LL. Do an album entirely produced by Marley Marl or Rick Rubin.

  • mr tibbs

    I'm hating off the strength of that corny country song this nigga put out. Real Hip-Hop? Nope, LL's just real ignorant.

    • mr tibbs

      Ano have you disected the lyrics of his guest feature? If not then you should and tell me if he represented the black outlook of racism acurately? No he did not. Ano suck a dick.

    • ano

      ure ignorant and clueless. brad paisley put out that song, its not ll cool js song (with one verse on it only). but keep hating on it

  • TripleX

    how does this album get only 2,5 STARS? WTF? that album brings back hiphop.

  • rainer12

    I cant understand how this album receives such a low rating but at the same time u have garbage albums from artists who really sounds ''tired and uninspired''.. i would give it a 3.5/5 cuz it put me in the mood

  • Anonymous

    WAIST OF MONEY AND TIME THIS ALBUM NEXT

  • The Burier

    First thing I'll say is that I at least appreciate that the reviewer didn't throw up a hate review like some of the reviews I've read clearly written by trolls who are still butthurt over Accidental racist. Authentic is really good, espcially after multiple listens.I find myself wishing it ran a little longer, which is a good thing. Always leave em wanting more as they say. It's not LL's best lyrical collection but he definately strikes a new cord sonically by offering a bit of a rhetro sound. The thing I'd say is that complaints about the features seem to be a bit kneejerk. Authentic is clearly a hip hop fusion record and no one should expect LL to start belting R&B hooks. When you think about the current climate of hip hop/R&B and the mass stunt casting that goes on I don't really see how anyone could complain about LL having Bootsy Collins, Seal or Brad Paisely on a track. At least LL's features bring more to the table than an hot name. If you hate LL for whatever reason you're gonna hate LL regardless of what kind of music he puts out. For everyone else, enjoy a really refreshing music collection.

    • AVENGERXL7

      You can only compare a legendary artist like LL to himself and this is not good work by his own standard. It is not the worse thing out there right now but it is one dimesional and doesn't have the character/soul of his previous work. People call critiqe hate, yes some cats get off on saying something sucks but it pains me because I was a fan but he is kinda just going through the motions these days. Don't be a stan folks

    • asdf

      most sites on the web came up with hilarious hate reviews towards that album/ll cool j. just rly sad if u ask me, cuz this record is actually quite good and better compared to what is getting released these days from other artists..

  • reay

    i think its definitely worth checking that album out, especially the bonus version of it. it offers alot of different types of songs, it shows that this guy could produce a whole rock album too. but its still rap combined with other elements and it works IMO. should have been 1 STAR more imo.

  • Anonymous

    good album nice change of pace

  • Brickz

    After first listening I thought this album sucks,but after a few times,it gets in your ear.Its true,its a bit pop-ish but still there are real hiphop tracks like Closer,Jump On it and I really like that bonus track Remember Me (Marley Marl on da track!).Also LL shows that still got that smooth tracks like it is from 02,03 like Between The Sheetz,Give Me Love...Really,dope album!

  • Anonymous

    Wack. Straight up

  • Miechu

    I don't know, why this album has such a low rating. It isn't perfect, but.. Lyrics are simple - that's true. But LL's rapping is all about emotion and power in his voice. We're The Greatest - it's really great rock song. I am sure that We're the greatest, whaddup, we came to party will be awesome live.

  • Avery

    Not fifty yet If he was so what If u can talk keep rappin

  • Avery

    I luv the cd. LL always show originality. Diff music for diff peeps. I said whaddup

  • Anonymous

    album is very good! fuck da hataz!!!!!!

  • compuers computing

    cool j sell his soul to the white devils fuck em

  • Anonymous

    all these negative comments coming from people that dont know anything about hiphop or music!!1

    • Anonymous

      and yeah, ll has relased some shit in recent years, so i wouldn't be surprised if it isn't that good, but the perspective of its judgement is wack

    • Anonymous

      real talk. even the reviewer mentioning 4, 3, 2, 1. nigga, i'm a bigger bis fan, than LL but, LL was already a living legend by the time that shit came out. Reviewer's omission of records like radio, mama said knock you out and GOAT shows they need to listen to more LL.

  • Anonymous

    who ever dont respect ll cool j ,dont respect hip hop or know anything about it!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    This old man needs to retire. he is 50 years old or something.

  • Andr

    always thought this guy was corny, but this album broke limits

  • Anonymous

    Hip-Hop Legend, but his last three albums need not have happened

  • doggfather

    2.5?!?! what?! 3.5 in a way.

  • Anonymous

    it isn't that bad a few dope tracks and something for everyone