If you could become any man for one night, who would you be? 50? Diddy? Jibbs? Personally,...
DJBooth Album Review
The Soulja Boy generation may not truly appreciate the legend that is LL Cool J, but he’s undoubtedly a first ballor selection to the hip-hop Hall of Fame. Not only has he been a force in the game for more than two decades, not only does he have a legit acting career (if you can call his performance in Deep Blue Sea acting), but he’s the only rapper alive with a resume Hova would be jealous of. At one point LL had dropped ten consecutive platinum albums, and now he’s aiming to add to that list with his latest album, Exit 13. Exit 13 marks the end of his deal with Def Jam (he’s exiting on his 13th album, get it?), but don’t mistake it for a retirement record. On Exit, LL proves he very could well be rocking mics well into the 22nd century.
There’s a reason the Ladies Love Cool James. With 20 years of panty-dropping singles to his credit, LL almost single-handedly invented the rap slow jam. Exit 13 proves that he hasn’t lost his musical libido, starting with his lead single Baby. A large part of his ability to stay relevant is his recruitment of the industry’s best and brightest, and for Baby he’s appropriately brings on The Dream for some radio killing production and help on the chorus. It’s not LL’s greatest lyrical performance (can anyone explain the “her mama play bingo” line in the first verse?), but at this point he could breathe on a track like this and it’d be a hit. Baby’s R-rating becomes a XXX on Heartbeat, a slowly bouncing track that brings on 50, Queen’s new hip-hop heavyweight, for a typically slurred hook. Is Heartbeat the second coming of Doin' It, my personal favorite LL joint ever? Not even close, but with tracks like Heartbeat and the more romantic Cry, Exit 13 shows that when it comes to heating up the track with candle wax and satin sheets, LL’s still on top.
LL may make a lot of tracks for the ladies, but I wouldn’t dare call him soft – just ask Canibus how that worked out for him. Mr. Smith takes a few shots at pumping up the adrenaline on Exit 13, most notably You Better Watch Me. On Watch Me LL goes hard over some I Get Money-esque production, working the mic like it was a punching bag with lines like: “You can’t comprehend the equations I’m calculatin’, you couldn’t place a decimal on the paper I’m making.” Based on lines like that, if anything LL’s stepped up his lyricism over the past few years. It’s the same deal with Rockin’ With the G.O.A.T., a track with a decidedly 90’s vibe that’s built to remind the youngins that there’s a difference between a man and a boy on the mic, a theme he continues with the grinding Ringtone Murder (anyone else hear shades of Rock the Bells?). Think of LL like an aging boxer: he may not have the raw power of his youth, but is so smart and experienced he can still knock out younger fighters if they drop their guard, and Exit 13 is far from his final fight
For every exit there’s an entrance, and while Exit 13 marks the end of an era, it also signals the start of something new. LL Cool J’s nowhere near his prime, and even with the addition of some more politically oriented material like Mr. President he’s not exactly breaking new ground, but on Exit 13 LL proves he still has far too much passion to walk away from the game anytime soon. Considering the state of the industry and his relationship with Def Jam, I’d frankly be surprised if Exit 13 was a smash record, but it’s certainly his best in a while. I’d call it a comeback, but he’s been here for years.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Sep 08, 2008
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