CD Review of Todd Smith by LL Cool J

Music Home / Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

Buy your copy from LL Cool J:
Todd Smith
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Def Jam
Released: 2006
Buy from

Make no mistake. This is not LL Cool J being someone else like the Beatles were on Sgt. Pepper. This is LL Cool J being himself. You know, “Todd Smith.” The man has been around for a long time in the rap community. He’s had lots of hits, many of them mainstays that people still dig hearing. He’s done his share of acting, of which he’s done nothing of real note, save for perhaps that one TV show he was on for a while. But his silver screen work…well, let’s just leave that at “Rollerball,” shall we? (Ed. Note: How dare you slight his work in “Deep Blue Sea.”) Obviously, the man is best at sticking to the recorded form. And as always, the ladies still love cool James. Funny how you can age in the rap world and still pull off that kind of schtick, when in the rock world you’re usually seen as a pompous old fart with a trail of old stay-at-home mom groupies.

So, yeah, Todd Smith is the unveiling of LL Cool J “as himself.” Odd, then, that Smith decided to share each and every damned track here with someone else. This isn’t a back-to-the-roots kind of move. It’s more like an opportunistic extravaganza of LL Cool J “and a cast of thousands.” For years now, it’s been hip to share the mic with other artists on tracks, or whole albums if you’re a rap or hip hop artist. Well, this album should have been called With a Whole Lot of Help from My Friends. That’s fine and all that Smith got some buddies together, but it kind of deflates the “concept” of “getting back,” if you will.

And really, by now, it’s time for Jamie Foxx to just give up the pop world. Ever since “Ray,” the guy has pimped himself into anyone’s album who’ll have him along. He might’ve been groovy in that movie, but as “Jamie Foxx,” the guy just isn’t that interesting. So we can immediately toss away “Best Dress” here. If anything, it’s more or less just a variation on Jay-Z’s much better “Change Clothes” with Foxx singing such banalities as “Get your best dress on tonight / Once we start there ain’t no stoppin’ girl / This is for the girls with all those ghetto curls.” And come on, LL, even you did this better a long time ago with “Around the Way Girl.”

But let’s keep the bus rolling. Everyone’s favorite no-talent pop star J-Lo drops in for “Control Myself.” It’s a surefire hit, and just as annoying as you could imagine. J-Lo does her best sexy sounding thing and Smith spins a rap whose rhythm and meter is exactly like Run-DMC’s “It’s Tricky.” Obviously, it’s tricky to come up with anything new these days. So can Mary J. Blige, an actual respected woman of the music world, save “Favorite Flavor”? Yes, she does to a degree, but it’s actually just a pretty damn good track, with LL finding his good footing and hitting his classic old school vibe without relying on the album’s gimmicks to keep him propped up.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for the Ginuwine-guesting track, “Ooh Wee,” which is a similar slow groover but in all the wrong ways. Trust me when I tell you that it’s another one of those songs that starts out with Smith going “Unh, yeah” that sounds like any thousands of other slow jam rap tunes that start off with the same two words. Yep, it blows. But then again, Smith can turn right around and deliver another classic punch with “Preserve the Sexy” featuring Teairra Mari. It’s all so schizophrenic.

That schizo quality is what ultimately undoes Todd Smith. Too many guest stars spoiling the mix, and well, just not enough good tunes to keep the whole thing afloat. And besides, Smith already “got real” a while back on another album entitled Mr. Smith, so perhaps Todd Smith is just Mr. Smith in lite form. Who knows? It’s sure to be a big hit with the fans and those into these kinds of projects, but it sure ain’t no Momma Said Knock You Out. Those days are long, long gone.

~Jason Thompson