For a guy that’s achieved as much as LL Cool J has, he’s mentioned very little these days. I suppose he (along with Will Smith?) kinda served as the bridge between both ‘Golden Eras’ of rap (classic 80s shit and the Dre/Wu-Tang/Nas/Biggie generation). From a critical perspective, Mr. Smith has had his ups and downs, but he managed a pretty nifty trick in staying relevant for over 20 years and 13 albums.
But I’m not here to praise his entire career. We’ll save that one for another day (or maybe never – no one else seems to want eulogize the man’s rap career in 2011 – perhaps because they all did that shit every time he dropped a slightly wack single). I’d like to bring your attention to LL’s 6th album – ‘Mr. Smith‘. Its neither his best work (‘Mama Said Knock You Out‘ or ‘Radio‘) nor his worst (a few contenders there), but it was and remains well-regarded and is of particular interest to me right now.
- Three bonafide HITS: ‘Doin’ It‘, ‘Hey Lover’ (clearly the inspiration for one of Drake‘s new ‘cry rap’ anthems) and ‘Loungin‘ (which got a Total feature on the remix). All three were a little too far on the “song for the ladies” side of the equation, but they’re all solid and most guys probably didn’t find them too pandery (that’s not a word – I know).
- The project was anchored by one solid (and at the time, up and coming) production team with an ear for what worked in the market back then: The Trackmasters (Poke and Tone – a.k.a., The niggas that hung out with Nas one time and convinced him to abandon his army jacket). They covered half of the tracks on the album and that lent a cohesive sound to the whole affair. The other 7 tracks were only spread out across 4 producers who also adhered to the sonics on display.
- One underground monster: ‘I Shot Ya‘. That beat was/is murderous and LL had the good damned sense to remix that shit with an all-star cast (he always had a knack for that shit – see ‘4,3,2,1’ as well) consisting of Keith Murray, Foxy Brown, Prodigy & Fat Joe. I imagine that this song (along with the album tracks) made it okay for men to be seen with the CD case.
- Finally, LL had a variety of ideas scattered throughout the 15 tracks which also happened to be immaculately sequenced.
I may be a little biased, but everything just works on this album – despite the fact that 90% of the sales were probably women (insert Kanye shrug). All that said, I’d still hold off on labeling ‘Mr. Smith’ a classic – but it’s pretty darned close and I wouldn’t be mad at anyone who took the plunge on that descriptor.
Go ask your mom, sister or female significant other for her copy of this shit (or download it – that might be easier) and give it a listen. When you’re done, you can come back and call me a cunt or fuckhead (or any insult of your choice – just don’t call me ‘Tron) in the comment section. I promise.
Oh and PAUSE this entire post. Can’t be too careful about that shit when you’re dealing with LL Cool J. That’s what a career filled with sartorial mishaps and a refusal to invest in basic chapstick will get you around these parts of the internets.
You know what? Upon further review, this shit is a fucking classic…