LL Cool J

"My twelfth album launch! Now everything is carte blanche!" trumpets the Rod Stewart of rap at the launch of his Todd Smith. The single "It's LL and Santana" may be a thunderous collabo with Juelz, but Carlos would have been a wiser guest to intro the five "ooh girl ooh girl " tracks that immediately follow (highlights being the single "Control Myself," where LL replicates his delicious phrasing of "Goin' Back to Cali" and "Preserve the Sexy," a nutty bit of sex banter with Teairra Mari). "What You Want (feat. Freeway)" begins the album's second half somewhat hardcore, but aside from a track about how we need "less fake rappers and more real pastors," it's just followed by more tracks about his reticence and eventual determination to commit to someone romantically, something the father of four did ten years ago. (What was that about "fake rappers"?) Ryan Toby (whose Mayfield actually makes you yearn for Pharrell's), Jamie Foxx, Lyfe Jennings, 112, Ginuwine, and others show up to fill the space between LL's raps, and you'll be forgiven if you can't remember who handled which.

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Anthony Miccio