QUEENS, New York — When your middle name is "Cool," there's no way in the world that you're going to let something as minor as 85-degree weather stop you from flossing in your video — your video that's taking place in your 'hood in front of your fans.
So Wednesday afternoon, as the sun was blazing down on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, LL Cool J came outside wearing a fur vest.
"I know you hot, baby!" a woman screamed as she stood several yards away from Uncle L, amid a throng of fans held back by yellow police tape in front of Jamaica Avenue's Coliseum Mall — this 'hood's gathering spot for many years.
LL wasn't that hot. After all, his fur was sleeveless and he took it off after performing a few takes while surrounded by fans throwing up "L" signals with their fingers. The video is for "Hush," from L's new LP, The DEFinition, and its premise is about a successful man going back to the 'hood with his girl to reminisce.
"I wanted to bring it back to Queens and do it in my hometown because I do so many other things," LL said in his trailer during a break. "I do so many movies, and I do so many things that are not 'hood-related, I think sometimes people forget that this is my neighborhood, this is where I'm from. This is the essence of my music and who I am in terms of my artistry and upbringing. I love bringing it back to the 'hood. I love bringing it home."
LL said that by touching down in the Q-boro, he's hoping to motivate his fans.
"I love getting the people involved, letting them see how the dream is lived," he said. "Somebody out there may become a cameraman, somebody out there may become a rapper, somebody may become a cop. I don't know. There's so many different jobs being represented [on this video shoot]. I know somebody young — at least one person [who's] 15, 16, 28, whatever — [will be] inspired to do more. I feel great about it."
Outside of his trailer, the police were busy keeping the fans at bay.
"I just want a flick, one flick," a man said to a cop.
"Everybody wants to love my boo," a woman who doesn't even know LL said to her girlfriend as they looked on. "I gotta see my boo. I'm not leaving Jamaica Ave. till I see my boo."
"Tell him to come sign my shirt," her friend giggled. "Sign my skin! Just write on me!"
Back inside, LL talked some more about the inspiration behind the video and the song.
"It's about a guy who's made it, who's very, very successful," he said. "He decides to take his girl back to the 'hood where they first met, so they can appreciate and kinda reminisce about where they come from. I think you'll find that with people that make money, sometimes you gotta keep a bus pass in your wallet so you don't act too cute in a Benz. This [video] was my way of doing that. I wanted to bring it back home."
He said the song's meaning, however, is more universal.
"It's about how we go through problems and pain and drama, but if we stick together, no matter how rough it gets, we gonna get through," he said. "That could be a relationship, man and woman, that can be a crew, that can be a team, whatever. However you slice it, at the end of the day, when the drama happens — just hush. Be easy. Be still in the midst of the storm, and we'll figure out what we need to do."
Jessy Terrero, who is also from Queens, directed. Actress Dania Ramirez ("She Hate Me" and the upcoming "Fat Albert") plays LL's girl.
"I come from the 'hood — maybe not this 'hood, but some 'hood," she said. "This whole process has been great. It's been great to see the fans, and [LL] really feels at home here."
The co-star closest to LL's heart, however, is his oldest son Najee. Young Cool J plays his dad at 17 in the video's flashback scenes.
"It's me and a girl — who's playing my mother, Simone — eating pizza, and I'm rapping to her," Najee said. Although he had on the young Cool J's signature red Kangol, he had one of his pop's characteristics that no designer could duplicate: that smile.