I didn’t know what to think. One of hip hop’s most venerable artists, LL Cool J, was leaving Def Jam Recordings, his label home since 1984. One of my earliest memories of hip hop was the first time I heard “Rock The Bells.” I immediately knew that I was hearing something special. That moment didn’t introduce me to hip-hop, but it was one my fondest memories of the art.
With LL’s announcement that he would be leaving his only musical home, many wondered about his future. Even more people wondered if he finally gave up on hip-hop to act full time.
I mean, let’s be real. Nobody has really been checking for LL lately. He has spent more time complaining about his situation at Def Jam recently than he has actually rapping.
His fan base has been predominately female for well over 10 years, and I don’t think we can expect any Oscar-worthy performances from Mr. Smith anytime soon.
It seems as though LL Cool J lost his hunger to put out a quality hip-hop album. His music is more suited for a “Body &Soul” compilation than the aggressive, timeless music on his earlier albums.
If someone wants an idea of a classic east coast hip hop album, I would gladly pass them a copy of “Radio” or “Bigger and Deffer” and watch their reactions. Neither of those albums contained the immense amount of sappy, R&B-inspired balladry as his last few albums.
One thing that has seemingly been able to pull the B-Boy out of LL Cool J is the threat of another rapper taking LL’s throne. From Kool Moe Dee to Canibus, every few years, somebody pops up that raises the ire of the self proclaimed G.O.A.T. In most cases, LL seems to come out on top, if not lyrically, on the charts.
Even I got duped into buying a recent LL Cool J album because I thought the whole album was going to have the same intensity as “Mama Said Knock You Out” because I heard some snippets and got excited. I don’t let that happen anymore.
I can’t tell anybody whether or not to buy “Exit 13,” mainly because I haven’t listened to it. I’m afraid of what I might hear. I want to hear the man that told everyone how bad he was back in 1987, but alas, this is not 1987.
The golden age of hip hop is long past, and unfortunately most younger fans of hip hop will never experience the joys of that time, including a still hungry LL Cool J spitting:
“My radio, believe me, I like it loud / I’m the man with a box that can rock the crowd / Walkin’ down the street, to the hardcore beat / While my JVC vibrates the concrete / I’m sorry if you can’t understand / But I need a radio inside my hand / Don’t mean to offend other citizens / But I kick my volume way past 10 / My story is rough, my neighborhood is tough / But I still sport gold, and I’m out to crush / My name is Cool J, I devastate the show / But I couldn’t survive without my radio.