September 18, 2008

L.L. Cool J.'s Exit 13

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L.L. Cool J has always been a dualistic rapper, maintaining a hard persona for the streets while keeping his albums smooth for the ladies. Since 2002’s 10, LL’s releases have skewed towards the latter, with singles like “Luv U Better,” “Hush” and “Control Myself,” catering directly to his female fan base. Exit 13 — his 13th and final release for longtime label Def Jam — marks a complete departure from these sensual grooves, as this insufferably lengthy album features harsh, brassy beats accompanied by equally garish rhymes. Aside from the radio-friendly lead single “Baby,” the tracks lack any semblance of excitement or catchiness, as LL buries some appealing old-school grooves (“Feel My Heart Beat”) with nonsensical rhymes. This is no more apparent than on the embarrassing “American Girl,” where LL patriotically reasons, “You go, girl, you make me wanna holler / I’ll take George off and put your boobs on the dollar.” Uncomfortable moments like these are sadly far too common, which makes LL’s Exit all the more piteous.