LL Cool J would totally buy his new record Exit 13, which comes out August 5th. His last few? Maybe not. "This is a record that I actually, honestly believe from the deepest part of my soul, I would buy — every record you make is not like that," says the vet rapper, who hasn't had a platinum album since 1997's Phenomenon. LL chalks recent lackluster efforts up to distractions. "With all my television and film projects, the quality level of my recent albums has suffered," says the MC, who has starred in movies like S.W.A.T. and Last Holiday and made a memorable guest appearance as a rapper named Ridikolus on an episode of 30 Rock. LL says that during the Hollywood writers' strike, he had some time on his hands and wound up recording and tossing most tracks from two full albums before coming up with material for Exit 13. "This new album isn't gonna be what people are used to hearing from me the last couple of records," he says. "This thing is gonna be a whole other level of dedication, commitment, creativity — this isn't the little independent movie, this is the big summer blockbuster."
The street single "I Cry," a bittersweet love song with a hook by Lil' Mo, and the raunchy official single "Baby," featuring The-Dream, are both getting spins at radio. LL promises that the rest of the album is full of surprises. "Heartbeat," featuring 50 Cent is about role-playing in the bedroom, while "Rockin' With the G.O.A.T.," produced by DJ Scratch, is a bass-heavy boast track. The album also features appearances by Wyclef Jean, Lil' Kim, Jim Jones, KRS-One, Method Man, and a remix of "Baby" with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora. "It's really a departure," LL says of the record. "Rick Rubin would be proud of me."
The album title refers to the fact that this is LL's 13th album on Def Jam and the last on his contract. It's been a rocky relationship, with LL questioning some of Jay-Z's managerial decisions and claiming the label didn't properly promote some of his albums, but he says things are better now. "We're back on the same page, it feels great," says the MC, who has said he's glad that Jay-Z is no longer running the label. "It's my last record on the contract, but that doesn't mean that our relationship is over."