LL Cool J
From Todd Smith, Part 2: Back to Cool (Def Jam/Universal)
This song has a funny backstory, actually. LL Cool J released an unspeakably lousy album (last year’s Todd Smith), subsequently realized it was an unspeakably lousy album, and decided it was Jay-Z’s fault. To compound the tragedy, he has now aligned with G-Unit. Joining 50 Cent’s armada allows James Todd to puff his chest (with an inhaler, wheezing with noticeable valor) while slurping on 50’s legacy. “Queens,” creepy synth kettles and all, is marred for the most of obvious of reasons (Tony Yayo), with an incongruous cast of notable Queens MCs spanning the ’80s (Kool G Rap) to the ’90s (Prodigy) up to the present day. But it’s LL’s song, so he is entirely justified in sounding like a righteous jerk: “Now they on my balls again/’Cause 50 my man.” Unfortunately, that ain’t too far from where the truth sits.
Ja Rule featuring Lil Wayne
From The Mirror (The Inc/Universal)
At one point, it got so bad for Ja Rule that his name became a verb in barbershops and rap battles everywhere: You got Ja Rule’d, son. He’s now re-emerged from the trenches to release “Uh-Ohhhh!”, an urgent attempt to re-establish his credibility, Ja’s raging, bloodthirsty ego bleeding acid over sparse, funky somersault bleeps. Of all the things 50 did to Ja’s career, the worst is that he completely disoriented the man once regarded as the ultimate indestructible bridge between rapping and singing, now reduced to barking, demonizing, and wan name-calling. Lil Wayne might as well record a song with a brick, honestly.
Keith Murray featuring Tyrese
“Nobody Do It Better”
From Rap-Murr-Phobia (Koch)
Keith Murray raps like an animal—a fierce, jubilant Mike Tyson type given to endless ferocity and innumerable facial gesticulations. Too bad Rapp-Murr- Phobia feels like a budget-clearing retirement party, even though he’s not retiring. (Voluntarily.) Tyrese unsuspectingly adds a degree of romance here, crooning in a moist fix (“That’s why you’re lovin’ me/’Cause nobody do it better”) that has a slippery but oddly appealing fuck-me-in-front-of-the- neighbors honesty. This song is wet with promise, but not for Murray’s career.