Thanks to his steady work on the hit crime drama NCIS: Los Angeles, LL Cool J is better known as an actor than a rapper to a whole generation of hip-hop fans. Of course, it hasn't helped that most of his output since seminal 1990 effort Mama Said Knock You Out has fallen far short of his self-proclaimed status as “Greatest of All Time.” New album Authentic doesn't change that, with its mishmash of incongruous guest spots (Fitz and the Tantrums, Eddie Van Halen, and Brad Paisley). But at least on “Whaddup,” the MC captures a flash of the fire that fueled early Rick Rubin-produced gems like “Rock the Bells” and “Jack the Ripper.” Live, LL remains an elemental force, delivering his hits with charisma and swagger backed by the unfuckwitable skills of current onstage partner DJ Z-Trip. The Kings of the Mic Tour teams LL with recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees (and arguably the best live Golden Era hip-hop act ever) Public Enemy, gangsta great Ice Cube, and iconoclastic crew De La Soul for a full evening of timeless classics.
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