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LL COOL J - TODD SMITH - UNIVERSAL
Record Rating: ****

LL Cool J - Todd Smith - Universal Hip-hop is notorious for short-lived careers, but LL Cool J (an acronym for Ladies Love Cool James) is the inevitable exception to the rule. This man is to hip-hop music what Muhammad Ali is to the sport of boxing; the very epitome of been there done that.

Since his first release in 1985, heís been one of the original hard-hitting, street-wise b-boys with spare beats and ballistic rhymes. Todd Smith is the manís real name and the moniker of his clothing line, and now itís the title of his latest studio album. What makes this one a really true hip-hop event, is its host of spirited cameos; every single song has the word 'featuring' in its title.

Lead single Control Myself features Jennifer Lopez, and it should appeal to XY and XX chromosomes equally. Fans still yearning for another heavy fuelled track like Mama Said Knock You Out or his party-starting single Jingling Baby donít really have to look far; this 13-track disc is sure to generate a whole bunch of sure-fire hits. Thereís the Teairra Mari led club thumping Preserve The Sexy, Philly rap star Freeway on the frenetic What You Want, and newcomer Juelz Santana gaining street-cred on It's LL And Santana. He moves swiftly back and forth between his collaborators, spitting out rhymes vehemently and at the top of his game.

Hip-hop artists are always collaborating with others, but LL may have taken it a bit too far; to fans heíll always sound more comfortable singing solo to the ladies with his trademark of a little pleading and a lot of telling how it's going to be. Still, he shines through with actor Jamie Foxx on the soulful Best Dress, balancing his usual gravely voice on whatís this recordís best track. Well recommended.

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