I have never been an LL Cool J fan. In fact, several times I was tickled by the possibility of his downfall: I smirked when he released the out of step Walking With a Panther album; giggled back in the day when I heard that he'd been booed at the Apollo theatre and waited with bated breath as he beefed with the then-mighty Kool Moe Dee and later with the rhyme rottweiler Can-I-Bus.

But, to my chagrin, he survived each of those crises and continued to make commercial and underground hits. After his third or fourth "renaissance", I accepted that the man was not going away: he is the master of the comeback, and is established and disciplined enough to escape obscurity. Also, more than ladies love cool James; an entire generation needs the idea of an Uncle L to remind us of how far we've come and that we can keep doin' it and doin' it and doin' it well.

Despite his place in the pantheon, his last three albums have been commercial disappointments. While Hip Hop has reached new audiences, and artists like Nelly and Jay-Z have achieved multi-platinum status, Mr. Smith, G.O.A.T and 2000 have yet to go platinum. A one-time lone wolf, LL has become quite familiar with the "popularity by association" strategy as the Todd Smith track list looks more like a LL duets album than a solo project.

On the lead single, LL and “Jenny from the block” take it to the club with the sexually provocative "Control Myself". L smoothly adapts his "Going Back to Cali" delivery to a nouveau-retro beat courtesy of So-So Def. "Favourite Flavor" is the radio-friendly track that features Mary. J Blige singing the hook…I can see the video now: a buff and bikini beach frolic in which L ultimately gets his mitts on the latest afro-am ingénue - oh wait, that was " Paradise ".

The rip fairs worse when pursuing street cred. On the mixtape-ready "LL and Santana" he teams up with rising star Juelz Santana. The Dipset ace spits a written-in-the-studio-say-nothing verse and outshines the plodding veteran. On "Whatcha Want" we are subjected to mindless lyrics and a painful back and forth with Freeway.

Contributions from heavyweights like Scott Storch, Pharrell and Timbaland ensure that the beats are solid. And, despite being uninspired at times, L delivers his verses with a skill and charisma that shows his respect for the craft. Generally, the album is listenable.

Let's face it: all seems right with the world when America has invaded a developing nation; oranges are still orange and Unky L is still putting out albums. More than an artist, LL Cool J is a modern myth - a legend. And even an admitted L-hater such as myself could not imagine the Hip Hop universe without him.

On Todd Smith, there are, regrettably, few hints of the legend, but he has done enough to perpetuate the myth. The question is: do we still want to believe?