LL Cool J – Exit 13 [Review]

LL Cool J - Exit 13

12 albums, all gold or platinum. His last album went gold with but quickly fell off the charts and was viewed by most as a failure. This being his last album with Def Jam (some 20 years after he first signed), how does LL wrap up his tenure? By teaming up with 50 Cent, that’s how. Thic takes him to the mat…

It’s Time For War
Greek gods and chariots are the imagery for this one. Drama, ah-ah chants, big drums, it’s that type of track. LL comes in and makes sure you are familiar with “The Holy Spirit using Hip Hop slang.” Todd takes on the attacks and shuts them down. “I’m beyond the gold grills and logos on chains/Ya see, I changed rap forever, I elevated the game. Launched the greatest label in the history of rap/And for 24 years I carried it on my back.” He makes no bones about it, folks been talking shit and you need to know, this dude is on that other. The tone is set and I hope he lives up to it. The song is fly as hell.

Old School New School
Produced by Ryan Leslie
There is video on YouTube of Ryan making this beat, it’s a really nice track. I think the title lends itself better to some old school banger type beat, but this still works well. The song itself is the same swagger and boasting from the last song. He has the record to back it up, so I ain’t sayin’ shit. The song is pretty cool though.

Feel My Heart Beat
Featuring 50 Cent
Time to get to your bread and butter; a song for the ladies. There is nothing complex or special about the track, but its okay. For some reason, LL raps this one with the last word of each line going UP in tone from the rest of the sentence. It’s horribly annoying. The hook and overall tone of this song is lazy and I don’t care for it at all. The use of the big band horn section goes to waste on the first song I don’t like on this album.

Get Over Here
Featuring Nicolette, Jiz, Lyrikal, & Ticky Diamondz
Mr. Smith is credited with breaking a few careers and this song seems to be inspired by that reputation. Nicolette is the first to attack the heavy synth and chord track. She sounds a lot like Lil’ Mama but her flow is a little different. She does a good job here and I am interested in hearing more. LL goes next, oddly, and brings us a more sped up flow than he’s been using lately. I dig the way he rides this beat though. Jiz is next and he flows like the previous two; again, it fits the beat well. Rounding out the relay is Ticky who slows it down but still does a good job. The song is fun and a cool little introduction of these youngstas in the game.

Featuring The-Dream; Produced by Tricky Stewart
I think this is one of the better tracks and hooks on the album and is apparently going to be a hit. You know what LL is talking about, just read the title. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Now, lyrically, this shit is elementary even for LL. “Nasty girl taught me all the lingo./Her mama play bingo, she ride mandingo/She don’t give a damn if I’m married or single/She makes me tingle/Shorty I’m yo….” There is more but yeah, you get the picture. That aside, the song is too fun to really dislike. Give it a few spins and it will get your movin’.

You Better Watch Me
Produced by Marley Marl
I was excited to see Marl doing this one; maybe we would get more boom bap for our buck. I was right!!! This is a really dark track that is bass, kick, a slight chord and a hot mic. Marl tosses in some mixing and LL does damage on this one. I think this is clearly when he is at his best, on the attack and over an 808 track. “You can’t compare me to them, line for line./I’m beyond that, I represent eras in time.”

Featuring Lil’ Mo; Produced by Raw Uncut
Have I professed my love for Lil’ Mo before? Oh well, yeah, that’s my girl. She lends her sound to this fly ass track by Raw Uncut that is a lot deeper than I would expect. The layering and production of the track does a great job of staying entertaining. The song itself has LL flowing lines of devotion and love…all ending with “girl.” That shit gets crazy irritating but about halfway he realizes it too and drops it. Song sounds much better without it.

Baby (Rock Remix)
Featuring Richie Sambora
So, we get song 5 again in the 8 spot but it’s over a “rock” beat from Bon Jovi and has slightly different lyrics. Um, look, there is nothing rock about this track but the energy. It’s about as much rock as let’s get it started is. For some reason they line “Ya body’s a gun baby, pump me full of lead” stands out to me. My gawd, that’s pretty horrible. Take a guess how I feel about this song….yeah, SKIP.

Rockin’ With The G.O.A.T.
Produced by DJ Scratch
This was the warm up single and it fell off quickly. Probably because the beat is over and the hook/chanting that is done on this one is terrible. I think lyrically, it’s about average but that is the best compliment I can give this one.

This Is Ring Tone M…
Featuring Grandmaster Caz
Soon as I hear Caz over the speakers, I get hyped. We are blessed with more drum and bass on this one. It’s a banger of a beat, and yeah, it has that yeah yeah yeah or go go go chant going for it. Either way, I’m sold. “My bars are like a bullet, blow ya’ head right off/Hate on the trigga, pull it/Give ya mouth a night off./…I used the word off seven times in rhyme/You dumb enough to think I got a limited mind.” THAT is some of his hotness. How you flip it, predict the reaction, and attack them for that. The entire song is full of James Todd goin’ on the attack including, “You sounding like a girl with them sweet sixteen’s…/Run around talkin’ bout I’m twice your age/But I was rich at 17, you got some shit to explain.” Honestly, gotta hear this one. I think this is the hardest track on the album.

Like A Radio
Featuring & Produced by Ryan Leslie
Yep, another song for the ladies, and yes, you can tell this is a Ryan Leslie beat. I gotta commend LL for not going Leslie crazy though, the two tracks are MORE than enough for this album. The song is about average.

I Fall In Love
Featuring Elan of The D.E.Y.; Produced by Jonathan Rotem
I don’t like this Middle East influenced sound on this one. I don’t like the hook or the other singing. I don’t like the lyrics, and fuck it, SKIP.

Ur Only A Customer
Ok, so the track and song isn’t bad, it’s placed in a bad location. After that last song, you need something with a little more heat on it. This song is a little more of a groove track, even with a pretty bad hook. With talk of I got my mojo back, he spits “I’m the dog killin’ the cat, ignoring the jack/This is flawless rap, you can’t call this wack/Where the ballers at?/Go head and throw up a stack.” I don’t know about that one.

Mr. President
Featuring Wyclef Jean
Ok, Clef been ridin’ this “Mr. President” theme for about 3 years now, but that’s just an observation. He has sped up the tempo of the track but kept the singing in that same tone. I don’t know how I feel about the track itself. LL digs a little deeper on the subject matter and addresses the country and some issues there in.

American Girl
Hip-Hop taps the marching band and drumline once again, in what I guess is a response to Estelle’s “American Boy”. Some of the lines in this song are so, odd, that it comes off as satire. I have NO clue what his real goal is with this song. I don’t know if it is a tribute or a social commentary on the state of our made up, Barbie worshiping, Jessica Rabbit coveting society. I have no clue…really…I just don’t know what the fuck is going on with this song.

Speedin’ On Da Highway/Exit 13
Featuring Funkmaster Flex
The track isn’t ingenious but I do like it. The combination of some well done drums and an amped guitar are a good choice. The metaphor of the game to a highway isn’t bad or new in itself, but it does come off kind of corny coming from a 40 year old rapper. The addition of a SCREAMING, yes SCREAMING Flex serves to date any of us that remember when these guys first came on the scene. I have never heard his voice crack though…Damn.

Come & Party with Me
Featuring Fat Joe & Sheek Louch
Man look, LL is channeling 50 now, and it’s not a good look. I wouldn’t be shocked if 50 wrote this one bar by bar. The cadence of the flow and hook are all 50…thru LL. It’s pretty clear. I haven’t had a chance to say it, but I don’t dig Fat Joe’s music, however, he is a welcome reprieve on this song. Sheek comes through on this party track and provides the most substantial flow on the song.

We Rollin’
I don’t really wanna feeeeeel….oops, wrong song. Yeah, LL jacks Boss’ track and adds some layers but that bassline is the foundation for this track. LL taps into his pimp persona and steps in the booth. It’s not a bad song, just not what I’d expect from LL. Talk of his caddy, and spending time with the G.O.A.T…for the ladies of course.

Dear Hip Hop
Produced by StreetRunner
StreetRunner gives us another pretty cool track. Nice drum work and melody give us a smooth track for LL to close out the album. Now, he goes on and says that he’s tired of the money talk and bitches and hoes, but he just spoke the same way (sans bitches and hoes) on like 11 of the previous 18 tracks. I’m so confused. He is however open and honest about his music and it’s refreshing to hear that in the game. The song itself isn’t bad either.

Bottom Line:
I went into this review expecting to hear some heat. I debated all week with folks saying LL fell off, and was no good. I still will debate with them on that, but this album doesn’t back me up as well as I’d hoped. With all the interviews of him on the net saying how he had something for us, how he was going to check folks, how he turned down numerous movie roles to work on this album, it could have been much better. I will still say he is a Legend and I appreciated his honnesty about his rep even stating several times that he may have fell off, but he came right back. I will still claim him to be one of the best, but I think that LL has his own lane and he doesn’t need to conform to certain gimmicks to sell records. Give this man a DJ, an 808, and let him rip, then tell me what you think. This album is average, and it hurt to type that. I think he has some good elements but they are scattered thought the album.. Great track, bad hook, or dope lyrics and hook, bad track. He has proven that his fans will be there, to buy his albums, and they will all ride on through Exit 13…riding until the wheels fall off.

nappyPicks: “It’s Time For War”, “You Better Watch Me”, “Cry”, & “This Is Ringtone M…”

Download: LL Cool J – “You Better Watch Me”