LL Cool J is a household name in the hip-hop and film industry. This article will look at all his studio albums and try to rank them from the worst to the very best. LL Cool J began rapping at the age of ten, and his style of music was influenced by the group, The Treacherous Three. He was initially called J-Ski before changing to LL Cool J, an abbreviation for Ladies Love Cool James. Throughout his career, LL Cool J has released a total of 13 studio albums, including his Grammy Award-winning album, Mama Said Knock You Out. Here is our ranking of all LL Cool J studio albums.
13. Authentic (2013)
Apart from an exciting roster of A-list guest stars, very few other things seemed authentic of this album other than the title of the album. Despite featuring the likes of Earth Wind and Fire, Snoop Dogg, Travis Baker, Charlie Wilson and others, most of these songs in the album were dull and uninspiring. The less we say about this album, the better. If LL Cool J keeps on releasing such albums, he risks tarnishing his legacy.
12. Todd Smith (2006)
Todd Smith was a decent album, and it is worth your time. However, with L.L Cool J’s talents, we honestly expected a little more in terms of creativity. The album featured an impressive list of guest appearances from Mary J Blige, Timbaland, Pharell, Ginuwine, and Juelz Santana. The album seemed to rely heavily on these artists instead of showing us what LL Cool J was made of at the time.
11. Exit 13 (2008)
Although LL Cool J had ceased to be as relevant as he was a decade or two ago, Def Jam still found some relevance in him that was enough to keep him going. The opening track, “It’s Time For War,” was average at best and had us doubting if LL Cool J would ever regain his mojo. However, he ups his game after the first couple of tracks, and you can feel his passion in the last track, “Dear Hip Hop,” as he wonders if he could have played a part in the demise of hip hop from its glory days.
10. The DEFinition (2004)
This album consisted of six tracks which were produced by Timbaland, while a few tracks were produced by Teddy Riley, 7 Aurelius and N.O. Joe. Timbaland’s production stood out in the album and there was a clear balance of the slow songs and bangers. The album had some great songs such as “Hush” and “Headsprung,” which helped the album sell over 500,000 copies.
9. 10 (2002)
The title of this album might be a little misleading since you might think that it was his tenth album. However, 10 was LL Cool J’s ninth studio album, released by Def JamRecordings. The album features songs such as “Love You Better” and “Paradise,” which showed that LL Cool J wasn’t afraid of showing his softer side. To compensate for the soft display on the two tracks, LL Cool J goes excessively hard on some of the other tracks, such as “Niggy Nuts.” The album peaked at #2 on the US Billboard 200 and #26 on the UK Albums Chart, which is his highest-charting album to date.
8. Phenomenon (1997)
While many rappers seem to hold on to one image, LL Cool J, is so good at fusing different characters of himself to form one good role model. Unlike his earlier albums, where he experimented a lot musically, in this album, LL Cool J takes far fewer risks on this one. This album was produced by Sean “Puffy” Combs and featured guest appearances from Busta Rhymes, The Lost Boyz, and Keith Sweat.
7. Walking With a Panther (1989)
After the success of his 1987 album, Bigger and Deffer, most of the production crew of the album refused to work on this album, demanding higher pay. The only person willing to work on the album from the L.A. Posse was Dwayne Simon; hence the album was primarily produced by LL Cool J and Dwayne Simon with assistance from The Bomb Squad. The album was a commercial success, peaking at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and top position on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums Chart, where it remained in that position for four weeks.
6. 14 Shots to the Dome (1993)
The number six album on our list was the much-anticipated follow-up to Mama Said Knock You Out. The album had three charting singles, and the album saw LL Cool J adopt a West Coast sound similar to that of Ice Cube and Cypress Hill. This was to the dismay of a section of fans who met the album with mixed critical and commercial reviews. The album peaked at #5 on the US Billboard 200 and has been certified gold by the RIAA.
5. G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) (2000)
If you have ever wondered how the word G.O.A.T became so popular, then you should look at the title of this album and understand LL Cool J’s role in popularizing the name. The album had a rating of 73/100 on Metacritic based on 12 reviews. The album also hit top spot on the US billboard 200 and is the only LL Cool J album to achieve that feat.
4. Bigger and Deffer (1987)
Although there were great successful rappers such as Whodini and Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J was arguably hip hop’s first great superstar. This album had a major contribution to his increasing rap stardom, with the album hitting triple platinum status and becoming one of the most popular hip hop albums at the point. The album featured light-hearted storytelling rhymes and songs that were designed to appeal to women.
3. Mr. Smith (1995)
The number three album on our list is a masterpiece that has always got us wondering how classic it was. The album featured some great commercial and contemporary beats right from the intro, which was a neat instrumental and a great way to kick off the album. All tracks in the album are really great, and LL Cool J does a great job lyrically. Mr. Smith was a great album that was received positively by critics, and there is no doubt that LL Cool J hit the jackpot again on this one.
2. Radio (1985)
The most impressive element of LL Cool J’s 1985 album Radio was mainly the simplicity in execution which featured a good balance of great singles that displayed his full range of lyrical talent. The main themes explored in his lyrics were inner-city culture and teenage promiscuity. The album was a great hit, selling 500,000 copies in the first five months after its release. The album was certified platinum within a year and is widely regarded as one of LL Cool J’s greatest albums of all time.
1. Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
The number one album in our ranking of all LL Cool J albums is often regarded as one of the best comeback albums. This was the album that truly redeemed LL Cool J’s rap career after Walking With a Panther (1989) was criticized by the hip-hop community. The album featured some great beats sampled from Digital Underground’s “The Humpty Dance,” “Funky Drummer” by James Brown and “Trip Your Heart” by Sly and the Family Stones. The album was a massive critical and commercial success and earned LL Cool J a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1991.