LL Cool Talks Relaunching Rock The Bells Competition & Upcoming Album With Q-Tip: ‘He Quarterbacked a Masterpiece’


After years of inactivity and uncertainty, on Aug. 6, LL Cool J will carry again the revered Rock The Bells pageant — a one-time hip-hop staple that paid homage to heralded MCs and legacy acts, together with Nas, Snoop Dogg, and A Tribe Known as Quest. Underneath his media and e-commerce enterprise, Rock the BellsLL Cool J will home a stout lineup that includes himself, Ice Dice, Rick Ross, Lil Kim, Jadakiss, The Diplomats, Scarface, Fats Joe & Remy Ma, Trina, together with further performers on the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, New York. 


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“Once we launched the channel [Rock The Bells Radio] about 4 years in the past, the help and the response have been so overwhelming,” LL advised Billboard on a Zoom name final week. “The power and the aim has all the time been to raise hip-hop tradition and traditional hip-hop tradition and never enable all of those proficient artists that we have now be pushed to the sidelines simply because on the present second they may not have a track on the high of the Billboard charts. That doesn’t imply that they’re not useful.”

The mission for the Rock & Roll Corridor of Fame inductee is straightforward: give hip-hop luminaries a really perfect platform to be celebrated for his or her longevity. “I discovered that so many individuals need this,” he mentioned. “[Fans] need to have fun the tradition, however they need it completed in the appropriate means. So the identical means that The Stones get handled, Paul McCartney will get handled, and Bob Dylan will get handled, I needed to see these artists handled that means.”

Billboard chatted with LL Cool J about his forthcoming pageant, his upcoming album with Q-Tip, his love for hard-nosed lyricism, and extra. 

Billboard: You’re not solely bringing again the Rock The Bells Competition, however you’re additionally doing it in your hometown of Queens. 

LL Cool J: Yeah. I’m doing it in Queens. It’s solely proper. I needed to take somewhat for me and rep for Queens. On the identical time although, it’s going to be artists from all around the nation. There’s a primary wave of bulletins, then it’s gonna be a second wave of bulletins. It’s feeling good. We’re gonna be on the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Forest Hills.

Additionally, congrats on receiving a statue in Queens, as effectively. 

I’m very grateful. To be sincere although, after I began off my profession, it actually was in my thoughts about, “me, me, me, me.” I used to be a younger boy taking off my shirt, working round and it was about me. Now, for me, even the statue in lots of methods represents the tradition. It’s a matter of it representing the greatness of the entire artists which have put a lot work in, not simply myself. I believe there’s so many nice acts, so many nice writers, artists, rappers and so many nice ones that should be celebrated.

Look, I’m actually simply out right here repping to the fullest now and simply seeking to elevate the tradition in a means that’s by no means been completed earlier than. I actually wanna not simply make historical past and create historical past, however set the tone for historical past, which is totally different. It means 3, 4, 5, 600 years from now, there’s individuals once they examine this or watch these interviews again, they’ll keep in mind how we set the tone and what traditional hip-hop is meant to be so it isn’t forgotten. I don’t need it to be a footnote.

I lately spoke to Q-Tip and he had a excessive reward for you saying that with out LL Cool J, there’s no Rakim, Jay-Z and Drake. Do you’re feeling that rappers at this time have a little bit of Cool J of their DNA?

Which may be true however with out Melly Mel, [Kool] Moe Dee and lots of these guys, there wouldn’t be no LL. All of us type of step on the shoulders of giants. That’s simply the character of what we do, however what I’ll say, for the document, I can’t inform individuals what it’s, however I can inform individuals what it isn’t. What it isn’t is me and Q-Tip in a time warp. What it isn’t is me and Q-Tip chasing tendencies. You should utilize deductive reasoning from there and determine the remainder.

Once I noticed you publish that picture of Michael Jordan on Instagram capturing a free throw together with his eyes closed, I type of knew you wasn’t enjoying round.

Nah, b. I’m telling you, it’s like strapping up for the playoffs, b. One factor I’ll say, fellas, in case you’re doing all your albums, be prepared. That’s all that I’m telling you. Simply be prepared.

You’re 10 years eliminated out of your final mission Genuine. How have been you capable of lock-in and regain your focus on your upcoming album?

In lots of methods, Genuine was a misstep. You understand, I used to be a few years into the tv present NCIS Los Angeles. I wasn’t actually centered, I wasn’t actually tapped into the tradition, I wasn’t actually paying consideration and I type of went off and made that document in a vacuum. So whereas there are some moments on there which might be worthy of listening to, I don’t suppose that it undoubtedly represents what I’m able to. It’s type of like when Jordan had the ball stolen that 12 months and didn’t make all of it the best way. It was simply a type of tasks that wasn’t my finest.

You understand, I’ve had some moments like that in my profession as a result of I’ve all the time had a bent to do one thing nice and get so filled with myself that I couldn’t get out of my very own means. So each time I might do one thing nice, I’d begin deviating from my private method and what received me there. So it took me about 10 years to type of let my ego heal somewhat bit as a result of it was such a catastrophe commercially as a result of that also issues to me. I do know for some artists it doesn’t, nevertheless it does to me. Then I needed to get again and discover ways to trip the again once more. The world has modified, the couplets have modified, the vibes have modified and the wordplay has modified. Quite a lot of issues have modified since I used to be standing on Farmers rhyming in cyphers. So you must focus and take note of what’s occurring.

I took one other few years and actually simply listened and studied and have become a fan once more. I allowed myself to fall in love with it once more, allowed myself to like some stuff and hate some stuff and have an opinion about some issues. Then, I started working.

Let’s revisit your mission 10, because it turns 20 this 12 months. You had hits like “Love You Higher,” “Paradise” and “All I Have.”

That was a enjoyable document, I appreciated that album. The factor with these albums to be fairly frank, after I made a few of these albums….[pauses]

You possibly can maintain it actual. This can be a secure house.

OK. I wasn’t making an attempt arduous. I wasn’t actually making an attempt. Clearly, I believe Pharrell did an important job and he type of guided me, however my aggressive juices as an MC weren’t burning on these information. So I used to be making these information extra in regards to the sonics of singing and listening to a document, and so on. I didn’t make these information as a B-Boy making an attempt to actually stick my territory and put a flag within the floor.

10 was profitable. I believe it’s platinum or double platinum. It did effectively, however on the identical time, with the people who knock these information and don’t love these information as a lot, particularly the fellas who get on me, they know what I’m able to. They’ve heard me in moments the place I am going loopy and so they’re like, “Why don’t you do that for?” It’s like a man who can dunk, who can go to the paint and who can cross individuals over, capturing jumpers all day lengthy and by no means going arduous. It makes his followers mad. So I do know that I’ve lots of dudes on the market which have been following me for years, defended me in barbershops and on Twitter, and requested, “When are you going to do one thing for us?” That had lots to do with me getting with Q-Tip on the brand new mission.

With that mentioned, 10 was an important mission, however once more, I wasn’t actually considering as a lot in regards to the tradition like I might have. I’ll provide you with an instance. One factor that I  did which was actual dangerous was that I went and shot the video for [“Love You Better”]. I used to be so caught up figuring out and getting in form that I didn’t even name up Pharrell for the video. I forgot! How self-centered are you able to get? These are moments the place it’s like, “Rattling. I didn’t even name this dude for the video.” So he’s mad at me. He’s been mad at me for like 1,000 years. He ain’t gon’ inform me that and he’ll bow and forgive me, however I do know he’s type of mad [laughs]. I actually apologized to the man, I used to be simply caught up in my world. Generally, we will have blinders on and have that focus, however that focus must be the appropriate focus. It’s not sufficient to be centered, it must be the centered.

I can let you know’re in a special aspect now as a result of even while you hosted the IHeart Music Awards final month and carried out your medley, you selected more durable information like “Mama Mentioned Knock You Out,” “Jack The Ripper” and even your verse on Craig Mack’s “Flava In Ya Ear.”

These children, their mother and father, they’ve had them enjoying “Round The Means Woman.” I wanted to introduce them to me as an artist and never me as a industrial product. So I mentioned, “Let’s do ‘Rampage.’” Dudes that like LL, that’s certainly one of their favourite joints — they prefer it. Dudes like sure songs. Let’s do “Flava In Ya Ear.” It had the controversial starting. Let’s do “The Boomin’ System” as a result of it represents the actual tradition. I simply didn’t need to get on the market and check out becoming in. I wasn’t there to attempt to persuade someone that I used to be pop, I used to be there to signify hip-hop. So when individuals see the Rock & Roll efficiency or they see Billboard, it’s going to be an entire different animal. So I’d actually encourage individuals to hit that pageant in a giant means.

Do bars matter in 2022?

Greater than ever as a result of each Snapchat, each TikTok, Instagram picture or each tweet is phrases. Individuals love phrases. You must be exact along with your speech these days. Phrases are extra necessary now than they ever been in all probability as a result of the entire world resides in an enormous transcript. When you’re going to say one thing, it has to imply one thing. The songs that I wrote on the brand new document that’s coming have that means. It’s coming from an entire different place. I believe that it’ll hopefully contact individuals in a means that they will’t ever think about. I don’t even suppose individuals can think about or perceive what that is.

I’m gonna go a step additional and Tip hates after I do that as a result of he likes to facilitate my artistic wants by way of the music however I believe he quarterbacked  a masterpiece, b. I believe what he did, neglect me exhibiting up on a document. It’s like he was the director within the film and I used to be the actor. He directed a loopy film, man.

Lastly, while you addressed that viral tweet of a few of your loopy music video antics, there was one factor you mentioned that caught my ear and that was, “I all the time made my very own guidelines.” With this album, have been you capable of rewrite a few of these guidelines?

Guidelines gotta evolve. There’s a distinction between guidelines and rules. Gravity is a precept of physics. These are issues which might be constants. Constants and norms are totally different. Usually, its a sure temperature each month however the seasons are fixed. In different phrases what I’m saying is, I undoubtedly wrote some new guidelines. I’m telling you. All bets are off. When you by no means appreciated nothing I ever made, then I encourage you to examine this subsequent one out.


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