NEW YORK-- After 22 years, LL Cool J completes his Def Jam contract with "Exit 13," which comes out in stores on Tuesday, and the veteran rapper says he made sure he "put my heart and soul into this album."
"It took me two years to put this album together," LL Cool J told Billboard.com. "On my last couple of albums I was off. I wasn't analyzing what I was doing exactly. I was making movies and music, but I couldn't play two sports at the same time. I turned down eight movies this time around. It was fulfilling for me especially since it's my last album under contract. I just couldn't jerk myself or my culture."
The 19-track set begins with the intro "It's Time for War," which finds him reconfirming his place in hip-hop history and addressing the naysayers. "It's okay if you call it a comeback / and let them know I'm ready for combat / tell those dumb motherf---ers to fall back," he raps over bells and violins.
He continues to boast on tracks like the kazoo-heavy, Marley Marl-produced "You Better Watch Me," which will be released as a promotional single in the coming weeks. "My style can't be defined / I'll be relevant forever / get it through your mind," he raps.
LL Cool J also pays homage to the music and artists that have influenced him throughout the years on the scratch-heavy "This Is Ring Tone Murder," featuring Grandmaster Caz, and the horn-laden "Old School New School." The sexually driven "Feel My Heart Beat" samples Seduction's "Heatbeat," and is in contention to be released as a second single.
Among the guests on "Exit 13" are up-and-coming Harlem rapper Nicolette on "Get Over Here," Ryan Leslie, who is featured on the electric piano-based "Like a Radio," and Elan from the Dey, who appears on "I Fall in Love."
The album is rounded out by the political "Mr. President" featuring Wyclef Jean, the club track "Come And Party With Me" with Fat Joe and Sheek Louch and "Speedin on Da Highway/Exit 13," with adlibs from radio DJ Funk Master Flex.
The single "Baby" featuring the-Dream, is currently No. 23 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. A rock remix featuring Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora will be included on the album and was made available on iTunes this week.
"Exit 13" closes with the outtro "Dear Hip-Hop," in which LL seems to jab at former Def Jam head Jay-Z: "If he's so hot / why is the culture frozen? It's more than champagne ... I'm the foundation."
LL Cool J has publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with how Jay-Z was running Def Jam last year (Jay-Z announced his affiliation with his Ace of Spades Champagne in 2006). Still, he did suggest he wouldn't be opposed to a collaboration with his former boss and Def Jam artist Nas.
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