The album cover of LL Cool J’s Exit 13 depicts a giant microphone crashing into a highway and literally cracking the asphalt. The 24-year hip-hop vet describes the artwork as him spiking the mic, the way a football player would spike the ball after scoring a touchdown. He’s feeling that victorious about the project.
“It’s a pressure inside of me,” LL said, sitting in Manhattan’s Chung King Studios, the facility in which he recorded so many of his hit records. “I feel like a champagne bottle that got shook up. I’m totally excited about people hearing it, because I want them to know how much I love my music. There’s only one way to prove it. It’s not about being old school or new school; it’s about being classic. I’m not really interested in all that ‘legend’ and ‘icon.’ It’s cool. I mention it here and there, but I really wanna make a hot joint. If I never made an album before, I think this album would be hot. When there’s pressure situations, I usually deliver.”
“I have a remix of ‘Baby’ with Richie Sambora, which is a rock joint,” he explained. “[It] is crazy but it’s unconventional. I wanted to take it to another level and do something different and touch some of those people who like me when I do that rock-edge flavor. I got a whole crew of people out there who heard me on the Howard Stern ["Private Parts"] soundtrack with the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers playing behind me.
“The remix is hot,” he added. “We creatively put our heads together. I told him I wanted that talk box. Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi’s is one of my favorite albums. I thought the talk box on a couple of the songs was incredible, ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ especially. So, I got Richie to do it on the ‘Baby’ remix. It sounds crazy. Then he did some vocals, and he did some guitar solos … so it’s good. I’mma drop it out there, shoot it out there and give people a chance to feel it. We been talking about it, having some good conversations.”
“I thought his voice would do that song so much justice,” Uncle L said of Wyclef. “It resonates. It has that truthful energy to it, that pain. I wrote a song that basically, it’s a letter to the president. If I had an opportunity to have a conversation with him, I’d pose a few questions to him in a respectful manner — because I think that, as a community, we can get further with me asking him questions in a respectful manner than me talking crazy. Instead of me starting a bunch of ruckus, I pose a bunch of questions that I thought were fairly intelligent to him, and we’ll see if there’s a response that comes back. [The questions] are relevant to our current president and at the same time could be posed to a president that comes in office after Bush, because none of the problems will be resolved. They’re pretty timeless questions.”
To start the record off, he raps, “Dear Mr. President, with all due respect/ Wish we could have a conversation./ I would take a trip down to your residence, and we would talk about the state of the nation.”
Later LL addresses the war in Iraq: “Don’t get me wrong./ I respect the flag/ But it hurts to see a kid in a body bag./ He fought for his country with all he had./ Now we have a family without a dad./ Lil mama’s crying, the kid’s are scared./ On 9/11, why were we unprepared?”
Cool J is one of the many MCs who chimed in when MTV asked how the hip-hop community can support Barack Obama without bringing any negative light to his campaign.
“By being smart,” was LL’s answer. “You know the man’s a politician. They’re looking for any flaw to pounce on him. You know if there’s a trickle of blood on him, a shark is gonna come for him. Why would you say anything inflammatory in a record that’s meant to support him? It’s common sense. I know we’re hip-hop. I know it’s fly for us to be rebels. I respect that completely. I’m part of the culture. But there’s a time and place for everything. While we’re supporting this man, we need to support him in a way that’s helpful.”