Mr. Smith was the third comeback for LL Cool J, the third time he returned to commercial and creative strengths after being written off by many critics and fans. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that its follow-up, Phenomenon, finds LL coasting -- after all, after his two previous comeback albums, he allowed himself to slacken the pace a little bit and ride on his credentials. Fortunately, Phenomenon isn't nearly as weak as 14 Shots to the Dome or Bigger and Deffer, but it simply doesn't have the power of masterpieces like Radio and Mama Said Knock You Out. Essentially, it's a retread of Mr. Smith, offering the same laid-back soul jams and rolling party beats. There's a couple of killer singles, a few dogs, and a lot of filler -- more so than on Mr. Smith, in fact. Still, Phenomenon sounds good when it's playing, and even if it doesn't leave a lasting impression, it's a solid, professional effort that illustrates why LL is still in the game, 12 years after his first record.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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