http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/13901cd7f3568e058f19dfb8a2177d3990007b00.jpg 14 Shots To The Dome

LL Cool J

14 Shots To The Dome

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 2 0
May 13, 1993

Ever since "I Can't Live Without My Radio" floated into the Zeitgeist in 1985, L.L. Cool J has been a superstar. L.L.'s tension-filled performance was so breath-takingly powerful and sexy that few rappers have ever equaled it. Not even L.L.

Eight years later, L.L. fans still love the predictable package of machismo, seductive funk, light humor and urban spirituality he consistently delivers. So his fifth album, 14 Shots to the Dome, won't surprise. If you've heard him before, you know L.L., because the man who once called himself "the future of the funk" has been trapped by his past.

The triple-platinum success of his last album, Mama Said Knock You Out (1990), must have persuaded L.L. to recycle. For instance, the mildly autobiographical brag-laden power jams "Ain't No Stoppin This" and "How I'm Comin'," both among 14's best songs, recall the single "Mama Said Knock You Out," as L.L. flexes his muscles and KO's his competition and critics. Also, the lightheartedly sexual "Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag Getting Crushed by Buildings" (a euphemism for sex) and "Back Seat" are less focused and less successful versions of "6 Minutes of Pleasure."

L.L. does branch out to voice concern about black male-female relationships in "Stand by Your Man" and all the world's ills in "Diggy Down," which sounds like a street version of a Michael Jackson save-the-world ballad. And the album climaxes with L.L. describing Armageddon in the chilling "Crossroads," which ends with the lines "All your life like so many played the game/Never realized that there's a flame."

There's a lot to like on 14, including "A Little Somethin'" and its huge hook of a sample from King Floyd's soul classic "Groove Me." But something's missing without the B-boy snapshots of hip-hop celebration L.L. captured so well in "Radio" and "The Boomin' System" and of women in "Dear Yvette" and "Around the Way Girl." And something's missing when an artist's evolution between albums is this minimal. That's inexcusable for a veteran rapper whose career is longer in years than many artists' are in months. As delicious as 14 is, it could have been an important album were it not Mama Said, Part II.

And as delicious as 14 is, L.L. still has yet to match his first, now-classic songs "Radio" and "Rock the Bells." Like many pop stars who taste large success early, L.L. may never be able to recapture the hunger of his prefame days and may continue to live in the shadow of those early recordings forever.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Bird on a Wire”

    Leonard Cohen | 1969

    While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

    More Song Stories entries »