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The Greatest of All Time – Part 3 of 5

Posted by ThatsMyJamRadio on July 30, 2008

LL Cool J is easily one of the most important rappers around because he’s been active since the early days of hip-hop’s commercial success. Hear his thoughts on maturing in the game, what he says is his best work and the keys to his successful marriage.

THAT’S MY JAM: One thing I also wanted to ask you was how do you personally challenge yourself to stay competitive and relevant in hip-hop? I mean it’s a pretty finicky market in terms of the styles that come and go.
LL COOL J: You know what? I just love what I do, man. When you do something for 24 years, I mean finicky is not even ― it doesn’t even matter anymore, you know, it’s just about making great music and delivering. I don’t take it for granted, I don’t approach it in a cocky way, you know what I’m saying? I approach it with humility, but I just do what I do and love what I do, so I don’t have that fear and that discomfort that comes with maturing in the game. I feel like I’m always relevant, you know, even when people say I’m not relevant, as soon as I’m about to put a project out, they want to talk about it, you know what I’m saying? So, I think it’s one of those things where I’ve earned my position, but the position that I’ve earned doesn’t give me the right to put out bad records, so I try not to, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to because when you do 13 albums, you’re going to do a few bad ones. Like, guys that do three, four, five albums, that’s one thing, but when you start getting over those years ― It’s not even so much the amount of records I’ve done, it’s the amount of eras I’ve done them in, you know what I’m saying? So it’s not just the amount of records, like, to have 10 or 12 or 13 albums is a feat, what’s challenging is to do that amount of records as the chapters keep turning in this genre, you know what I’m saying? It’s easy to squeeze them all in a certain period. If you do them all in one era, you’ll strike while the iron is hot, but to be able to do ’em ― you know what I mean.

So, yeah, I just love what I do, man, I love it. I approach it with humility, have fun doing it and like to do it. It’s fun.

OK. Now, when you look back at your catalog of work, do you see your albums as progressively getting better or when you really look back, do you think, “Wow, blank album was my favorite, that was the best I was.”
The albums definitely don’t progressively get better. I mean, you know, it’s kind of like it’s a matter of taste. As much as you would tell me that you like “Doin’ It,” and you appreciated it in high school and maybe that album with “Hey Lover” and “Loungin” and all that, I could find somebody who would tell you that “Rock the Bells” and the album that had [that] on it and “I Need a Beat” and “Radio” was the real album, and then as soon as you tell somebody that’s the real album, somebody could tell you Mama Said Knock You Out with “The Boomin’ System” and all that is the real album, so it’s kind of like it’s a generational thing. But that being said there are a few stand out albums. There’s just some albums where I think I hit the mark, just touched it right, but that’s just a part of having a career, like being in the NBA or NFL: you don’t win the championship every year, you know what I’m saying? Even though you play on a professional level. Nah, I don’t think they get progressively better. I think the last couple, a case could be made that they got weaker, know what I’m saying? But what I don’t think people understand is that it’s not that they got weaker because of my lack of talent or ability or capability, it’s because I was doing TV, movies and a billion other things, so I wasn’t spending my life in the music like I was on those other records. So when you have a guy giving 50 percent of his energy, but 100 percent of his heart to a project, it affects it, you know what I’m saying? I was always giving my heart, but not all of my energy.

OK. When you do look back at your catalog, which albums do you think you hit the mark on?
I think my first album [Radio], I think the Mama Said Knock You Out album, the Mr. Smith album, [Bigger and Deffer] album, obviously All World [a greatest hits compilation] ― yeah, definitely Mr. Smith, Bigger and Deffer, Mama Said Knock You Out and Radio. To me, those four are the best ones and I think that this album that I’m working on now will ultimately be in that category because it’s that much better than those other records in between there like The DEFinition, and Todd Smith, which was an album that I did for a different reason, but Todd Smith and The DEFinition and those records, I don’t think ― even though I had “Headsprung” ― I don’t think I really found my voice because I was just doing so much that I was kind of ― not coasting out of arrogance, but coasting because I was just busy, you know what I’m saying?

Come back tomorrow for part four of “The Greatest of All Time.”

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