It’s been several years since LL Cool J announced his final album with Def Jam Records. The New York City emcee had nothing but kind words for his former label home during a recent interview with XXL magazine.

LL recalled the launch of the label marking “the birth of something great” and taking Russell Simmons’ lead during his early years at Def Jam.

“It was all of us just trying to have some fun and just doing what we love,” LL Cool J said. “Russell was just running me around in the clubs. We would see Madonna and the Danceteria. It was just like the birth of something great. We were all just really, really focused. I remember tracking Russell trying to find out where he was going to eat that night so I could always show up and get me some free food for me and my man. I would always show up and order two steaks and take one to go. I would get two steaks and my man would get two steaks. Russell would be walking me around the party saying to people, ‘This is LL and he’s going to make a fortune. He’s going to be a star.’ He would be pumping it up. I didn’t know what to think. I was just following his lead.”

LL later offered some insight into his upcoming album, G.O.A.T. 2. In past interviews, the rapper has described the project as much grittier than past albums and he confirmed that the project will boast “hard Hip Hop,” during his interview with XXL.

He also declared that G.O.A.T. 2 will be “for the street.”

“The concept behind the album was to give upcoming artists an opportunity to shine and to put myself in the position where I have to spit bars with some of the hardest rhymers in the game,” he said. “It’s people I really respect lyrically; people I think are amazing on the mic. Loaded Lux is on the album along with Murder Mook, Raekwon, Uncle Murda, Maino, Mavado and J. Cole. It’s a lot of different people that I think got bars. I also have some big dogs on the album like T.I. I have Fred The Godson on the album. I wanted to really embrace where I’m from and embrace my community, embrace my hood and give these guys a platform and an opportunity to shine while I do my thing…This album is more culturally clear and defined. It’s for the street. 85 percent of the album is for people who like hard hip-hop.”

As an artist who began his career during Hip Hop’s golden years, LL Cool J revealed that he chose to pursue a career in rap because he was passionate about the music and not merely looking to make money.

“For some reason a lot of us think that hip-hop is something that we want to use to get out and we want to do other things,” the rapper-turned-actor said. “I didn’t get into hip-hop music to use it or to exploit it to my advantage and leave. Although I was able to be successful, I do it because I love it. And when you love something you continue to do it. Picasso was doing some of his greatest work at a later age. Artists don’t change. James Cameron is directing films. If you love something you continue to do it. There’s no reason for me to walk away…A thousand years ago when I made ‘I Need Love’ I didn’t know that was going to be commercially viable. When I did ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ it wasn’t even as commercially viable. It’s more famous now than it was when I made it. When I made ‘Doin’ It’ the radio stations said it was too dirty to play. Now it’s PG. Things grow and they escalate.”

LL Cool J’s commentary on his new album, authenticity in Hip Hop, and his time spent at Def Jam comes weeks after it was revealed that LL would not be a featured artist at Def Jam’s upcoming 30th Anniversary Concert.

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