LL Cool J, ‘Authentic’

On “Bath Salt,” LL Cool J raps, “Never try to sound like a rapper I raised” and that’s precisely why most of his first record in five years works. LL knows he’s from a different generation and he owns his age and legacy here. On the fine “Closer,” he says defiantly, “LL, grown man/ couldn’t give a damn if young boy’s a fan.” Thirty years in, LL still spins taut couplets as often as he licks his lips and delivers them with nimble style. Love songs dominate the disc and the best are the testament to loyalty “Not Leaving You Tonight” (a delicious hook from Fitz and the Tantrums) and an “I Need Love” update, “Give Me Love” (with Seal). When he misfires (“We Came to Party,” the cluttered “Whaddup”), the music and strut feel forced. Amid many old-school R&B guests, Eddie Van Halen appears to set two tracks on fire. Certainly, metal hip-hop is more compromise than authentic, but much of this disc sounds genuine. (Out Tuesday)
Ken Capobianco

ESSENTIAL “Not Leaving You Tonight”