In 1984 the world was introduced to a cocky young emcee by the name of Ladies Love Cool James. This Queens native would transform the position of an emcee and set the standard to what all rappers would follow for years to come. He made history with songs like "I Need A Beat", "I Can't Live Without My Radio", "Rock The Bells", "I'm Bad", "Jingling Baby Remix" and "Mama Said Knock You Out". And defined the times with legendary albums such as "Radio", "Bigger And Deffer", "Walking With A Panther" and "Mama Said Knock You Out".
LL's career hasn't been without its downfall and drama. 1993's "14 Shots To The Dome" started a downward spiral in LL's career, seeing the once dominant emcee loose some of his glory. Getting more involved in acting and Hollywood; LL's musical career took a big hit, as his following albums would never reach the same status his previous albums attained. 1995's "Mr. Smith" was a nice comeback album for LL, even though it was a lot softer than most fans expected.
It was 1997's "Phenomenon" that really broke the back of LL fans. Acting as a soundtrack to his book, "Phenomenon" failed miserably as it will forever be remember as his worst material or better yet the album which started the feud between him and Canibus. The ensuing battle between LL and Canibus would send shock waves throughout Hip Hop as the new emcee would rip LL a new one and shatter all images of dominance once seen. However, as Canibus's career faltered, LL could once again show his face and claim the victor, even though everybody knows Canibus won the battle. 2000's "G.O.A.T." was supposed to be a return to LL's roots as the legendary emcee proclaimed himself the greatest emcee of all time. This lofty claim didn't win over the hearts of fans, but instead turned them against LL as most were fed up with his arrogance and self-proclamation of greatest. "G.O.A.T." ended up being a huge disappointment, as only half the album was what fans expected and the other half continued to display LL' softer side which die hard fans have loathed for years.
It is now 2002 and LL Cool J has reached his milestone album, number 10. With a career spawning well over a decade, LL proves that his longevity in this Hip-Hop game is unmatched. With album number 10 we see LL in a form that has been missing the last couple years. "10" manages to capture a nice balance between LL's softer R&B side and the Hip-Hop world he represents. While previous albums have ended up inconsistent, "10" manages to balance everything out nicely and portray each side of the 2002 version of LL Cool J.
As most fans have come to expect, any LL album is going to be full of R&B influenced joints. It has been LL's ability to transform with the times that has gained him his longevity and success over the years, even though many die hard fans will argue his ability to transform has been his main downfall. Nevertheless, "10" features some amazing R&B influence joints such as the lead single "Luv U Better". The Neptunes produced track is proof that the Neptunes are the hottest producers in the game right now and that LL is still capable of making those great love songs without sounding too watered down. You will be hard pressed to find a better love song out in this day and era as everybody can appreciate what LL has put out with his song.
While the plethora of softer songs on "10" may turn many hard core fans away, LL is still the best at producing these type of joints. This is never more evident than on joints like "Lollipop", "Born To Love You" and "U Should". LL even takes it to another level with a heartfelt dedication to his grandmother on "Big Mama (Unconditional Love)". LL vividly paints a picture of his childhood growing up with his grandmother and all the love and support she has gave him. It is a very heartfelt and emotion song as you really get the feel for the love LL is portraying.
However, with any LL album, sometimes LL goes overboard and puts out too many R&B influenced joints. The Trackmasters once again go into "jacking" mode for "Paradise" featuring Amerie. The Keni Burke sample has been used time and time again and brings the track down. The Neptune's produced "Amazin" featuring Kandice Love is a nicely produced track but its nothing special and ends up being just an ordinary track. And "Mirror Mirror" is a track some fans might be familiar with as it was a left over track from the "G.O.A.T." album. However, LL remade the track into something a little softer but still as arrogant. And unfortunately the track is still as disappointing as the production is solid but it's hook is rather dull.
However, LL rebounds nicely and when he gives us those hard-core Hip-Hop joints we all love is when "10" really gets good. "Fa Ha" is one of the albums standout tracks as the DJ S&S produced track is beautifully done and features a nice Hall & Oates sample. LL rides the track like the LL of old, ripping it to shreds. "Throw Ya L's Up" is another street banger as the Ron Lawrence produced track is vintage LL material. "After School" featuring P.Diddy could very well be a huge commercial smash as the track is nicely put together. It's not overly commercial and gimmicky, but catchy enough to gain mass appeal.
The Neptune's put a lot of great work into "10", as they continue their impressive streak of hit after hit. "Clockin' G's" features some rough/hard core production by The Neptune's that LL rides perfectly. The track is the type of song we wish LL would put out more often as it is a certified banger. The awkwardly titled "Niggy Nuts" is a hit or miss track by many as the Neptune's produced is quite awkward. Sounding more like a Swizz Beatz reject, the production is weird at first but will definitely grow on you. Thankfully LL saves the track with his hard-core barrage of lyricism. It sounds like LL tried really hard to force the issue with this track, sounding extra hard at moments, but overall it's a success.
However, "10's" finest moment comes from the Ron Lawrence and K-1 produced masterpiece "10 Million Stars". With truly the best production we have seen LL spit over in years, "10 Million Stars" is LL's best work since "4,3,2,1". The production just mesmerizes you with its brilliant "I Sing The Body Electric" sample. The track is a centerpiece for this album and for the second half of LL's career.
After 10 albums and a decade's worth of influence LL Cool J is still going strong. While we have been plagued with nothing but disappointments in the past from LL, "10" sees a perfect balance of the LL we once loved and the LL of today. It may seem that LL will never fully go back to his golden days, but as long as Hip Hop keeps going you can bet LL will be right there putting out music. For hard-core fans "10" will be a two sided story, one half the R&B joints may turn them away, while the Hip Hop anthems will be more than welcomed. But for the average LL fan "10" will be a triumphant album in a legendary career. No matter the situation, the time period or the era, LL has always been able to adapt. And as the years go by, don't be surprised to see LL Cool J continue to making great Hip Hop music, for he has only done it for 17 years, what's a couple more!