LL Cool J

Exit 13

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Wrapped in what is possibly the most prog rock sleeve design in hip-hop history, Exit 13 marks LL Cool J's departure from Def Jam, the pioneering label the MC helped build. It begins with the blustery and overblown "It's Time for War," an embittered reclamation where he sounds more like he's shooing kids off his lawn than reigning over his territory. There are a couple tracks where LL sounds as on fire as ever, usually when his targets are specific rather than general, as on "You Better Watch Me" and "This Is Ring Tone M..." But the album's tone tilts toward the reactionary in its clear desire to sound just like a standard 2008 mainstream rap album, with unnecessary references to Petron and Cognac and in-your-face evidence that LL really wants you to know he's not behind the times: "Let's take our clothes off, bombs away/Pick a song -- Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, or Ray-J." Head-scratching career low points are more common than highlights, from the horndog patriotism of "American Girl" ("I'm so glad the French helped us out/Now you're free to walk around and let your cleavage bounce"; "You go, girl, you make me wanna holler/I'll take George off and put your boobs on the dollar") to the sub-50 Cent "Come and Party with Me." Out with a whimper, not a bang, Exit 13 is an off-ramp leading to a boulevard of several mismanaged White Castle knock-offs.

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