LL Cool J

The DEFinition

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It's great to hear LL Cool J so unrestrained and so inspired on "Hush," one of the fantastic tracks on the more hit than miss The DEFinition. The track segues into the much lesser "I'm gonna do this to you, I'm gonna do that to you" Penthouse letter that's "Every Sip," but there's more here to bounce to than on 2002's mushy 10, and you can thank Timbaland for that. He's in the producer's chair for the banging kickoff single, "Headsprung," where LL meets the South with crunk beats and a slowed-down, syrup-sipper's chorus. He adds that Art of Noise-styled, mystic pan flute synth to "Can't Explain It" and a buzzing-in-your-ear melody to "Feel the Beat." LL responses to all these fresh sounds with vigor, spitting out the rhymes swiftly, and comes up with a couple things that make you go "dang!" without a trip or stumble. As good as Timbaland's beats are, it's 7 Aurelius who steals the show with his work on "Hush." It's more lovers' rap from LL, but Aurelius' beats and tricks should appeal to XY and XX chromosomes equally. Same goes for his team-up with R. Kelly, "I'm About to Get Her," making "Every Sip" the only romantic yawner. LL offers up "you rap for the thugs/I rap for the ladies" on the album, but there's some tough, near-"Mama Said Knock You Out"'s here, and from any hardcore thug's point of view, he's getting better at splitting the difference.

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