Despite Todd Smith’s missteps over the last couple of years, you have look at the man as a legend. He is a pioneer in hip-hop, and still an emcee at heart. Since Phenomenon this writer hasn’t checked for Ladies Love in the slightest, but the new singles “Baby” (for radio) and “Rocking with the G.O.A.T” (for street) produced by DJ Scratch of EPMD fame, changed all of that. What would Exit 13 hold beneath it’s album cover? LL has always been able to weave in and out of commercial success, especially earlier in his illustrious career, the question everyone needs answered is, can he do it again?
The answer is…somewhat. That sounds vague, but “Exit 13” teeters between “great album” and “good album”. Starting with “It’s Time for War” LL challenges anybody who denies his legacy; a bold statement needed in a time of lackluster emcees. “Old School New School” has a bouncy Ryan Leslie track, where LL is once again compares the new class with the veterans. As always, LL puts himself on the highest pedestal. Having confidence is one thing, but sometimes L seems to take a little far. 50 Cent shows up on “Feel My Heart Beat” using a familiar baseline from the 90’s, but LL fails to deliver lyrically over solid production from the Dream Team. Other notable tracks are “Ringtone Murder” featuring Grandmaster Caz, and the aforementioned “Baby” (feat. The Dream). Maybe the best track on the album is “Dear Hip-Hop” where DJ Scratch shows he doesn’t miss a step on the turntables.
Unfortunately, that’s where it stops; the rest of Exit 13 is full sub-par production, boring lyrics, and unnecessary guest appearances. “Get Over Here” feat Nicolette Jiz and some other yah-hoos maybe the worst LL song this critic has ever heard. LL tries to rhyme double time on more than one occasion including “Get Over Here”, “American Goal” and the completely pointless “Mr. President”. LL continues to show why nobody is checking for him anymore on “Come and Party With Me” featuring Fat Joe and Sheek Louch. It would be nice if all these guys would just go back to making some music with soul, instead of the party nonsense.
All in all, the album is what every LL Cool J album has been since 1996, just ok. There are flashes of the LL we all know and love, and then he seems to reverberate back to making records that brainless record execs think will sell. We miss you LL, we don’t want you to stop, but we do hope you read our reviews and take note. – Darin Gloe
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