Believe it or not, there was once a time when even industry insiders assumed that an artist would never find longevity in the world of hip-hop. Yet, with almost two decades of hits and his tenth album ready to drop, LL Cool J has proven the naysayers wrong. On 10 the ultimate rhyme slayer has climbed back into the ring and is ready to do his thing.
"I consider this disc to be a milestone in my life," says LL Cool J. "A tenth album for anybody is truly an amazing moment."
As one of the few commercially viable artists one can truly call a veteran, LL has come a long way from his origins in St. Albans, Queens. From his early days of rapping in front of the mirror in his bedroom while The Sugar Hill Gang boomed from his radio, LL has always been determined to be a winner in the game. "I sent my demo to many different companies, but it was Def Jam where I found my home," says LL. At 33-years old, LL Cool J has received two Grammy Awards, penned his autobiography I Make My Own Rules and is the first rap artist to amass six
consecutive platinum-plus selling albums and six gold singles.
Beginning his career with the masterful 1985 debut album RADIO, which was the first Def Jam disc ever released, LL Cool J has refused to slow his roll. In addition to his music, LL has also made forays into the world of film and television. Yet, while he has appeared in seventeen films and one hit television series (the currently in syndication In the House), LL insists, "Doing films will never stop me from treating my music with the utmost respect. Just because people see me in films, doesn't mean that I'm not still trying to create hot joints in the studio."
For 10, LL teams with old friends (The Trackmasters) and new buddies (The Neptunes) to create an album that can compete with any other beats on the streets. "I lived, breathed and slept this record. For me, it's all about taking risks. I'm not trying to rehash Bigger & Deffer or Mama Said Knock You Out. When a rapper starts repeating themselves, that's when they become stale." As fans and critics will soon hear, LL Cool J is as fresh as he ever was.
While over the years LL has worked with a wide array of producers including Rick Rubin, Marley Marl and Puffy, he says, "Part of working with great producers, whether it's Trackmasters or The Neptunes, is finding people who can help me execute my vision as an artist."
Spending two weeks in the studio with The Neptunes at their Virginia Beach compound, LL recalls, "Its always fun to work with people who are energetic and enthusiastic about their work. I was supposed to work with The Neptunes a few years ago, but because of time, it didn't fall in place. Maybe it just wasn't the time, but for 10 we made it work."
Although LL is constantly writing rhymes in various notebooks, he confesses, "I do most of writing for record in the studio. I like being in the moment, writing in the zone as the beat bangs in my ears. From there, I just let the words fall where they fall."
Speaking from the executive suite, Def Jam President Kevin Liles says, "With 10, LL Cool J is still relevant, because he has been able to transcend time periods. Throughout his career he has reinvented himself, while still staying true to who he is. When he raps he is still thinking about the girls who has his picture on the wall and the cats that know he has been through it all. He's not trying to be what he's not and he is what he is."
As LL Cool J proclaimed on his last release, The G.O.A.T. he is still the Greatest of All Time. "As an artist, I feel I am constantly growing. It's not about money or power anymore. There's just a special feeling you get when you complete a project and present it to the world." With the release of 10, one is sure the world will still embrace the powers and prowess of LL Cool J.