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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

[Throwback Review] LL's "Mr. Smith" + "No Airplay" [Dirty]

I know a lot of people disagree with me, claiming that just because LL made soft records for the ladies he was never one of the true greats. I call that massive bullshit and history revision, all the way back to the classic "Radio" - one of the first real Hip Hop classics - to "B.A.D.", "Mama Said Knock You Out", "14 Shots to the Dome" (you can read more about my thoughts on why it's a truly great album by clicking the text above) and "Mr. Smith" he damn near had a flawless discography. And he had a style of his own, no other emcee could credibly slaughter emcees like on "Mama Said...", encapsule everything Hip Hop is about on his breakthrough classics "Rock The Bells" and "I Need A Beat" and then make a super saccharine hit like "I Need Love" while mainitaining his street cred, but that's LL for you. When 1995 came around he dropped his last potent disc, though there's been loose bits and pieces as recent as 2013 ("Rocking With The G.O.A.T.", that Marley Marl freestyle over the "Mahogany" sample, etc) but he's definitely a has-been. But from 1985 to 1995 he was a force to be reckoned with and deinitely someone I bought every album from - there was the half-dud that was "Walking Out Of The Panther", that despite some really dope moments ("Fast Peg", "Jack The Ripper", "Going Back to Cali", "Nitro", "It Gets No Rougher") was a cheesy, half-assed album that felt forced and out of touch with Hip Hop in '89

Luckily for him, Marley Marl was the remix king back then and took on the LP single "Jingling Baby" for the 12" B-side which became THE version that blew up and started an amazing relationship that lasted two LP:s. But after those two albums it was time for LL to move on, thank Marley for making his comeback possible and making him a force to be reckoned with and he started recording the "Mr. Smith" album. I know some people dislike this album but to me it's the best album LL ever did as far as balancing the smooth with the hardcore and though it's a little dated now, it's the perfect album to either play when you're with your girl or just chilling by yourself. The transition from one of the raunchiest sex anthems on commercial radio in the '90s ("Doin' It") or the sweet but honest "Hey Lover" featuring Boyz II Men to super hardcore monster cuts like "I Shot Ya " (both the original solo version and the posse remix with Prodigy, Keith Murray and Foxy Brown) should be a little jarrig but somehow it all works very well a s a unified body of work. A good example is the opening cut "Hip Hop" where LL professes his love for Hip Hop over a smooth beat and does it in words and a tone that could almost be a love song but wihout ever coming off as cheesy. This is without a question the last album LL ever did that you could bump front-to-back and even have any kind of urge to do so. "Phenomenon" was one of the wackest albums by a legend ever put out, and only had one, maybe we can stretch it to two two redeeming songs out of ten. And I know a lot of people really like "G.O.A.T." and consider that LL's final solid release, but aside from the excellent opening song (labeled as the "Intro"), "Ill Bomb" (which was already released on a compilation), and the bonus track "Shut 'Em Down" the majority of the album, while it had its moments, felt very forced... 

If LL had never made another record after. "Mr. Smith" nobody could say he was and is a true Hip Hop legend, complete with the whole package as like his previous albums it doesns't feel forced in the least, It's a very well thought out, sequenced and well performed project. And though he left Marley behind, he had the assistance of Rashad Smith, Easy Mo Bee, Trackmasters, Chad Elliot and Chryskillz - all hot producers in the mid-'90s and they gave LL a really cohessive project, much thansk to it being exective produced by Poke and Tone alog with LL and Bay Chris Lighty. So once again from 1985 to 1995, LL dropped five really incredible albums that cemented his legacy in Hip Hop and though he has released more wack albums by this point he ocassionally still comes through with a firey track to remind old time fans what he is still capable of. Why he doesn't do his old fans proud is beyond me, but that's LL for you - like Canibus said, "99% of your fans wear high heels" and as the years has passed he has catered more and more to that demographic. Sadly. But if you ever doubt LL throw on "Radio", "Mama Said Knock You Out" or "Mr. Smith" and know that this was once an extraordinaire artist in full control of his musical output.

One last thing to close this throwback review with a goodie for your headphones. On all of the album versions of "Mr. Smith", both explicit and clean versions, one of the best songs on the LP ("No Airplay") is censored like crazy. Why LL and Def Jam choose to do this is beyond me considering the song is as explicit as can get and the theme is it's raunchy enough to gain no play on the radio, hence it ended up only as an album cut and as the B-side to the promo single of "The Life". Luckily that single is the only way to ge ta hold of the original uncut version and it's an amazing listen without all that jarring edits, a true LL classic. Check it out below straigt from the 12" single and Turn that MOTHERFUCKER up!

LL Cool J - "No Airplay" (Dirty, 320) [Download] 


  1. I have a FLAC version of this if anyone is interested.

  2. Any version of a re-up would be appreciated.