It’s a complaint you hear more than ever these days: Hip-hop has lost its way and it isn’t about the bars anymore. Of course, that depends on who you ask. While some veterans of the rap game certainly lament that things aren’t the same, one of the culture’s most iconic figures is taking a different view. In a new interview with Billboard about his upcoming, Q-Tip-produced, Def Jam-backed 14th album, LL Cool J explained why he thinks bars matter “more than ever” in hip-hop today.
“[Bars matter] more than ever because every Snapchat, every TikTok, Instagram photo or every tweet is words,” he observes. “People love words. You have to be precise with your speech nowadays. Words are more important now than they ever been probably because the whole world is living in a giant transcript. If you’re going to say something, it has to mean something.”
The rap luminary also relates this concept to his own upcoming project, saying, “The songs that I wrote on the new record that’s coming have meaning. It’s coming from a whole other place. I think that it’ll hopefully touch people in a way that they can’t ever imagine. I don’t even think people can imagine or understand what this is.” Of his executive producer, he offers high praise; “I think [Q-Tip] quarterbacked a masterpiece, b,” LL says.
The “Rock The Bells” rapper also talks about revitalizing the defunct music festival named for his 1985 hit. The festival will return under LL’s banner (also called Rock The Bells media) on August 6, bringing such iconic acts as Ice Cube, Rick Ross, Fat Joe, and more to Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in LL’s native Queens, New York. “The energy and the goal has always been to elevate hip-hop culture and classic hip-hop culture and not allow all of these talented artists that we have be pushed to the sidelines just because at the current moment they might not have a song at the top of the Billboard charts,” he says of his Rock The Bells media venture. “That doesn’t mean that they’re not valuable. I found that so many people want this. [Fans] want to celebrate the culture, but they want it done in the right way. So the same way that The Stones get treated, Paul McCartney gets treated, and Bob Dylan gets treated, I wanted to see these artists treated that way.”