LL Cool J's latest is un-phenomenal

by Latia S. Curry | 10/31/97 6:00am

For over a decade, LL Cool J has dominated the rap scene with his candid lyrics and infectious beats that reverberated throughout inner city jeeps across the nation. His indubitable success has paved the way for many rappers over the years, although none have quite been able to reproduce his style or his aura.

Oddly enough, his latest venture, "Phenomenon," seems to be a break from his tried and true formula of prominent hip hop dance beats and sexy lyrics.

His last two albums, which include a recording of his greatest hits, are likely to outshine his latest effort. The rapper looked to various producers for his work, including Track Masters Entertainment and Sean "Puffy" Combs for Bad Boy Productions.

The first track on the album entitled "Phenomenon" is a fast paced song with a droning chorus. Although it is getting a lot of play on urban radio stations, it is one of the few songs of its kind on the album.

The listener becomes at ease with the LL Cool J from the past when they listen to the remake of "Candy Girl," originally by New Edition. Ralph Tresvant and Ricky Bell of the 1980s pop group join in to form "Candy" into a catchy, melodic slow jam similar to previous hits like "Hey Lover."

The album goes back and forth between turbulent bass and rich, harmonious melodies lightly blanketed with rap lyrics. Usually a solo rapper, LL entertains guest rappers and singers on six of his 10 tracks. These guest artists include everyone from Busta Rhymes to Keith Sweat.

LL definitely scores with his last track, "Don't Be Late, Don't Come Too Soon," which features the ballad-singing Tamia and contains an interpolation "You Are My Starship." It features LL in his element: those sexy lyrics that date back to the days of "I Need Love" flowing over a musical run.

Tracks like "Hot, Hot, Hot" and "Another Dollar" fill space in the middle of the album with pop sounds and deeply ingrained choruses. "Father" rounds out the end of the work with an autobiographical account of LL's life growing up without a father.

Although true LL Cool J fans may be disappointed by his latest not-so-phenomenal effort, a couple of tracks on "Phenomenon" have the ability to grow on the listener. Even having collaborated his efforts with such marquis rappers as Method Man, Redman and the Lost Boyz, LL still will not see the selling power of his previous endeavors. Don't be too anxious with this one. At least wait for a sale.