ll-cool-j_web.jpgLL Cool J, Authentic (429 Records)

LL Cool J knows how to play well with others. On his 13th studio album, Authentic, he delivers an eclectic mix of songs with a variety of guest singers that elevate the material to a worthy listening experience.

This is not a rap album, but more of a hip-pop/hip-rock one, hitting all the right notes from romantic to raucous to punk. The 12-track record sees a roster of stars lend their voices, including Eddie Van Halen, Snoop Dogg, Travis Barker, Monica, Seal, Earth, Wind & Fire and Brad Paisley (not Accidental Racist, thankfully. Their other collaboration, Live for You, is a rock ballad that is enjoyable.)

From the sarcastically cinematic intro Bath Salt, to the delightfully cheesy lust song Between the Sheetz, to the vivacious, Charlie Wilson-assisted New Love, the rapper sounds fresh.

There’s nothing wrong with pandering when one tries to hang on to artistic relevance, especially when producing a balanced, intriguing album. Who knows, maybe that’s the future of music and Cool James is still a pioneer.