ACL Review: LL Cool J
Ladies by the thousands still love Cool James
By Thomas Fawcett,
11:10AM, Sun. Oct. 2, 2016
The dichotomy of LL Cool J’s career was on full display for a late-afternoon Saturday set in front of a vast crowd on the day’s designated hip-hop stage. Everything in the catalog of the veteran Queens MC is either growling tough guy bars or romantic whisper rap. Hardcore or cornball, there’s no in-between.
The former James Todd Smith kicked off with the former, busting out the gate with 1990 hit “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Judging by the size of his biceps – seriously, dude has a barrel chest and tree trunks for arms – he still means that literally. Late-Eighties cuts “I’m Bad” and “Jack the Ripper” brought more boom bap and braggadocio.
LL’s moniker stands for Ladies Love Cool James, but can a rapper barely south of 50 remain a sex symbol? Well, he can sure as hell try. The man did a lot of winking and over-exaggerated lip-licking throughout Nineties pop-rap anthems “Doin' It,” “Loungin' (Who Do Ya Luv),” and “Around the Way Girl.”
He upped the ante on “I Need Love,” passing out long-stem roses to a dozen lucky dames while rapping chivalrous if impractical lines like, “I'll lay down my jacket so you can walk over a puddle.”
Schmaltz aside, the set was a crowd-pleasing celebration of golden era hip-hop. B-boys top-rocked and windmilled, and Z-Trip scratched and cut as the other half of the classic MC/DJ combo, closing with iconic 1986 single “Rock the Bells.” LL may be cornball, but he’s a total pro.