Artist: LL Cool J
Mixtape: Return of the G.O.A.T.
411: "Pray to God, not LL Cool J." The Queens icon has his priorities in order. He calls himself the greatest of all time but will be quick to tell you that his 24 years as a hip-hop star have been a huge blessing. He'll be very frank when speaking about how some of his music may have suffered through the years because he was focused on setting himself up in Hollywood. But can you really blame somebody for trying to get some of that long-range money?
He's paused all his acting over the past couple of years to rededicate himself to his rap art and recorded a few albums worth of material for his Exit 13 LP (due in July). He also just finished a mixtape with DJ Kay Slay called Return of the G.O.A.T.
"Me and Slay was just talking: 'Let's do a mixtape,' " Cool J explained, while riding in his Bentley down Linden Boulevard in his Queens neighborhood. Cool J is home, and the 'hood has come out to show him love. Everyone is either asking for an autograph or a picture, or telling him how fine he is.
"I said, 'OK. Let's knock it out. Let's hit them something hard, something hot,' " he continued. " 'Let's do something for the fellas so they don't feel I'mma oil my chest up, roll around in some feathers with my toenails painted.' ... So I said, 'Slay, let's do it.' Slay is hot. I have a lot of respect for Slay."
LL's mixtape is going to have a mixture of him freestyling over beats that are out there right now, some exclusive songs, and artists like Sheek Louch rapping over some classic LL instrumentals.
"They representing me, giving me love," he added. "Rhyming over some of my old beats to really make the mixtape official, so that young cats could get an opportunity to hear some of my earlier material without me doing it. Hear other cats' interpretation. I like that actually. I like to hear other cats spitting it. I loved when Game gave me props [on 'Game's Pain.']. I thought that was fly. He wasn't trying to ride and be all extra with it. ... It was a nice little show of love and kept it moving."
Return of the G.O.A.T. is LL's first official mixtape.
"I do things when I feel it," he explained of why it took him almost three decades to do one. "I don't do things because everybody else is doing them. Like clothing lines. Let's take that for example. I did a clothing line in '87, Troop. It was everywhere. They talk about clothing lines. Then I did the clothing line with Fubu. It was everywhere in the '90s. Then I did the Todd Smith and this thing with Sears recently with the LL Cool J brand. People talk about Def Jam, I owned a piece of Def Jam. I sold it back. People don't really know my history. I own my own catalog. These are things that people don't understand that's going on in LL's life. I'mma do a mixtape for no money, just to show cats how nice I am on the microphone. You have a whole generation of people who think all I ever do is love songs."
LL just released "I Cry" with Lil' Mo. That song will be on his album. "I got Def Jam behind me," he said with a smile in the barber's chair at his favorite spot, Head's Up. "It's the new Lakers. The energy is great."
Joints To Check For
» "Laptop Gangsters." "That's just a freestyle I call 'Laptop Gangsters' because these guys get on the Internet and become laptop gangsters," he said. "They have all these theories and ideas of what they think real hip-hop is and what it isn't. The reality is, most of them guys [weren't born] when the music was created. ... Now they wanna get on the Internet and tell me what's what. I'm kinda touching them up a little bit and dealing with that."
» "Who Want It With the G.O.A.T." "We used that Rick Ross 'The Boss' beat," he said. "I think it's important to just set the tone for what I feel I've contributed to hip-hop and this culture. It's not just about love songs — even though I invented that and brought it to this music. Now you almost can't have an album without it. It's become a part of the blueprint. As the first solo rap star in the history of our culture, sometimes you have to speak and let people know what you're really feeling. I felt a mixtape was the way to do it. Plus, I'm not looking for money from Slay. I'm not trying to get paid off the tape. It's not always about a dollar all the time. Money ain't my god. I'm paid, but it ain't my god. God is my god."
» "Zodiac Driller." "It's gonna be the summer of the G.O.A.T. all summer long," he said. "The mixtape is gonna drop, album is gonna drop. I'mma rearrange the game. I'm gonna get the game refocused. A lot of guys are gonna try to throw a single out here, throw singles out there, none of it's gonna work. I'm gonna win, and that's what it's gonna be."
Don't Sleep: Other Notable Selections This Week
» DJ CL - 28 Blends Later
» DJ Fade and Grafh - Burn 'Em Down
» DJ Haze and Nu Jerzey Devil - BWS Radio 4 (The Black Wall Street Takeover)
» DJ Smallz - Southern Smoke Radio
'Hood's Heavy Rotation: Bubbling Below The Radar
» Common (featuring Pharrell) - "Universal Mind Control"
» Gorilla Zoe (featuring Sean Kingston) - "On the Corner"
» Jasmine Sullivan - "Need U Bad"
» Rich Graham - "I'm Lookin for You"
» Rick Ross (featuring Triple C, Flo Rida, Shawty Lo, Birdman and Trey Songz) - "This Is the Life" remix
» Styles P - "Music"
» Young Chris (featuring Lil Wayne) - "Paradise"
Not much has changed on Chris Brown's rap radar. His favorite MC is still Lil Wayne. He loves what Kanye West is doing, and obviously he and David Banner are as tight as Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are on the court. On the set of the video for Banner's "Get Like Me," C. Breezy didn't even take a water break. When he wasn't shooting scenes with the Mayor of Mississippi and Yung Joc, Brown was battling in a dance-off.
The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground
"Let's take it back to the old school. Let's take it to Union Square." Snoop Dogg wants to keep the original spirit of mixtapes alive on his next street CD with DJ Drama.
"It's gonna be a mixtape with just me and Drama," Snoop told us of his next project. "I feel mixtapes are losing their essence. Mixtapes means mixing, turntables, records. Not CDs, computers — you understand. Go back to the element of mixtapes where it all started, where it all began."
Snoop is also masterminding Gangsta Grillz CDs for Tha Dogg Pound and their new affiliate, Terrace Martin.
"That was something that was overlooked a lot. The South wasn't really getting their respect," the Dogg said about aligning his camp with Mr. Thanksgiving. "Now the South is highly respected, and DJ Drama was one of the backdrops to it from his mixtapes and the stuff he does. I felt like putting him with Tha Dogg Pound could only bring that boost to the West Coast and show that love and show that unity. He's the king of what he do, we the kings of what we do — why not bring both worlds together? We're gonna take a few beats from artists who really didn't rap on their beats how they supposed to. Then we gonna put some new music down, and we gonna do what we do."
Look for all those mixtapes within the next month or so. ...
Will Saigon's Abandoned Nation be joining Jay-Z's newly formed Roc Nation? It seems like a move that makes perfect sense, right?
"Rumors are gonna be rumors," Sai said last week in Queens about the speculation that he might sign with Jay now that his tumultuous tenure with Atlantic Records is over. "You can't fight the rumors. Just Blaze and Jay-Z are good friends. ... It's gonna be big. Where we go is gonna be big. It's gonna make history."
Saigon said that within the next month, he's going to announce where he'll release The Greatest Story Never Told. He has also set a tentative release date of September 30 for the long-delayed LP. Saigon categorized Atlantic as a "dance label." "They wanna make dance music and party music. That ain't my lane," he said. "The person who signed me to Atlantic Records quit three months after I got signed up there. I tried to work it out, but they made me a lot of empty promises." Wherever the Yard Father goes — whether it be with Young Hov or not — his label home has to "care about insightful music."
Saigon's new song "Gotta Believe" was produced by Just Blaze. Just also sings on the track under his alias Red 5. "That's one of Just Blaze's many alter egos when he records. Remember [Jay-Z's] 'PSA'? That's Just Blaze [speaking between the verses]. Even 'Show Me What You Got.' Flavor Flav called Just Blaze and said, 'Thank you for putting me on the record,' when that's really Just Blaze doing that 'Show me what you got/ Sh-sh-show me what you got!' Flav ain't even know it wasn't his voice. Just is creative like that."
Saigon also cleared up that Just Blaze isn't biting T-Pain's style by using the vocoder effect on his voice while singing the hook.
"We did [the song] a year and half ago before the craze," Sai explained. "We actually referenced it for T-Pain. This is when T-Pain was still coming up. He tried to charge us 100 grand. So I was like, 'Yo ... you sound good on it. Just keep [the song with your voice on it].' This was before the Auto-Tune mania."
This summer, Saigon will be touring Germany with Jay-Z and Rick Ross on two separate outings. He and the Bawwwse also hit up Scandinavia for some dates. The Yard Father just returned from Beijing, where he performed as part of a Complex magazine promotion.
"It was a wonderful experience to see all these Asian kids who don't even know the language say all the words to your songs," he said. "They really knew 'Come Again' and 'Pain in My Life.' That was big over there. They really like 'Pain in My Life' a lot. It was a beautiful experience. I walked about three or four miles of the Great Wall of China. It was an amazing experience. I wouldn't trade that experience for nothing in the world."
Viral videos for "The Color Purple" and "What a Life" are already in the can. There's also a video for "Gotta Believe" going into production soon.