First Hit #1: February 8, 2003
Jennifer Lopez had found a formula for topping the charts by this point: Find a rapper, invite him on your pop song, reap the rewards. But All I Have feels like the first time that the rapper – LL Cool J in this case – was involved from the outset. The duet – about Lopez leaving a man while he begs her to stay – needs the two vocalists to work, since it tries to present both sides of the story. The alternating lines of the chorus make it compelling while it otherwise wouldn’t be, especially since Lopez isn’t exactly going for complexity in her own vocal delivery. She doesn’t need to, it’s a song built between the two different styles of her and LL Cool J, and it does well to emphasize their different delivery – singing vs. rap, high vs. low – and different perspectives. This one is a true collaboration, and it takes the strengths of the different performers to make something that’s a lot more compelling – and more importantly a song that wouldn’t function with one of those elements removed. Lopez on her own here would be somewhere between boring and annoying, LL Cool J would have little to really do – his lines largely play off her indifference to her pleas – but together it’s pretty good.
It’s also interesting that it doesn’t involve the two characters in the song getting back together. All the pleading in the world, and Lopez still leaves. It’s actually kind of refreshing, because it still feels like the start of a happy ending.