A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although there's a light, feel-good tone to most of the tracks on this album, there are also explicit references to sex and women. Several of the songs are dedicated to discussing casual or irresponsible sex, and the lyrics sometimes objectify women. This is the first LL Cool J album in several years to carry the "Explicit Lyrics" label, and there are plenty to be heard in most of the tracks. The "clean" version includes alternative lyrics, rather than just the removal of the profanities.
What's the story?
With more than 20 years as a rapper under his belt, you'd think LL Cool J wouldn't have anything left to prove to audiences. But you'd be wrong. It seems a new era of rappers have taken over his reign, so he's back with a vengeance to prove that he's still relevant and can compete with guys half his age. This 21-track album from the 40-year-old rapper marks a strong return -- as well as the end of LL's unprecedented two-decade relationship with Def Jam Records.
Is it any good?
Rather than trying to directly compete with the new breed of MCs, LL sticks to his roots and uses his precision lyrical skills and affable personality to remain a hip-hop standout. "You Better Watch Me" is a daringly retro track steeped in early '90s sounds reminiscent of Black Sheep and House of Pain. Bringing back the classic New Jack style on songs like "Baby" and "Cry," the retro feel continues with appearances by Richie Sambora, Grandmaster Caz, and Grandmaster Flash. LL even summons Frank Sinatra for a posthumous cameo on the track "New York."
On tracks like "Mr. President," LL demonstrates his maturity: "Mr. President, I would ask you about the war, really and truly what is it for? When an IED makes a soldier fall, is he dying for something above us all?" If he continued this theme on other tracks -- rather than falling back on his tried-and-true, over-sexed persona with lyrics like "Keep the a-- poppin' like the locks on a Benz" -- this mid-tempo album would rise to greatness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether LL Cool J is a confusing role model for teens. Because he's 40 and married with children, he's often portrayed as a positive example in sitcoms and in public appearances. Yet many of the songs on this album include stereotypical lyrics that objectify women and glamorize sexual promiscuity. Why do you think he has this dual image? What message does that send to his fans?