It’s nice to imagine that a vet could salvage some ol’ skool zeal, since hip hop’s been wallowing in its shallow end of late. LL already has 10 albums under his belt and has an acting résumé as impressive as Ice Cube’s. He’s like rap’s Jagger, a mix of balls and sex appeal (though unlike Sir Mick, he’s the cat you don’t want to mess with when it comes to lyrical scuffles.) He’s a proven deal, a self-conscious prizefighter who refuses to fall. So why is The DEFinition so, well, temperate?
It isn’t the lyrics, which boast classic LL punch lines. It isn’t even the outdated, Aaliyah-haunted production of Timbaland. No, it’s the sin of having no point, no concept; The DEFinition literally defines nothing at all, though there is plenty of libido and ego. On “Can’t Explain It” the “reformed” sexpot/ Don Juan who admitted in his 1998 chest-beating book, I Make My Own Rules to boning a pregnant chick, moans, “kissing on your belly ring nice and slow/ I love to take my time, love to give you a show.” He then switches it up on “Apple Cobbler,” with a straight-up Missy kype of exaggerated syllables and stressed rhymes: “Lights, camera, action — hold up/ You know my style, I been blowed up.”
It takes the slickest track (“Feel the Beat”) to remind us why other emcees just look plain silly in the crunkster icon’s shadow. He takes a stab at all the detractors with this line: “Mothers and daughters agree I’m on fire.” Jeez, who didn’t already at least suspect that? Obviously, the legend that refuses to buckle doesn’t need a “definition.” There’s nothing left to prove.
Linda Hobbs writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].