May 24--Whether it was fashion, books, acting or music, LL Cool J has had a hand in it at some point.
Currently, Mr. "I Need Love" is equally renowned for his lengthy rap career, a starring role on "NCIS: Los Angeles" as Special Agent Sam Hanna and his ubiquitous involvement with the Grammy Awards -- not to mention a knack for thwarting home invaders with his bare hands and impossible muscles.
But for the near future, his focus will be on music, both the new album he just released -- "Authentic," his 13th -- and the old-school "Kings of the Mic" tour he's starring in with Ice Cube, Public Enemy and De La Soul.
The tour, which plays the Fox on June 4, kicked off earlier this month and will wrap at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans in July.
LL, who talked recently from his home in New York, said he wasn't concerned with being trendy when choosing the "Kings" lineup, but, rather, in keeping with his album title, he wants the tour to be authentic.
"Hip-hop has come to a time where we have to stop reinventing ourselves as teenagers. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to dismiss the kids or new artists. But I wanted to do stuff that I thought my fans would appreciate. I think fans who grew up with my music want to see these other acts. It's time for us to grow up and own who we are," he said.
While he didn't want to "let the cat out of the bag too much," the 45-year-old LL said there will probably be some collaborations onstage among the acts.
Shared experiences seem to be high on LL's priority list these days. He teamed with Brad Paisley for what became a controversial duet -- "Accidental Racist" -- and Paisley returns the favor along with a swarm of other music stars including Seal, Eddie Van Halen, Charlie Wilson, Monica and Snoop Dogg on "Authentic."
"It just kind of happened," LL said of his elaborate guest list. "Me hosting the Grammys and being around so many great musicians, I realized that I loved all kinds of music. So if I do, then my fans probably do."
LL said all of the acts traveled to record in the same room with him -- Seal even flew from Moscow through Dubai and Australia for his L.A. session -- and that he was particularly thrilled that Van Halen plays on two tracks ("Not Leaving You Tonight" and "We're the Greatest") because, "He's one of the best living guitarists out there, so if you're going to do a rock record, why not get the best?"
Paisley joins him for the soulful "Live for You," and while the duo found themselves defending "Accidental Racist" -- and seeing it parodied on "Saturday Night Live" -- LL believes the song made its point.
"There are people on the fringes who didn't quite understand the message we were sending out, but those were the few. The majority know that love conquers all, so I'm very happy with it," LL said.
In general, LL sounds content with his place in the hip-hop pantheon and is understandably proud of his almost three decades of endurance.
"In a genre that chews people up and spits them out," he said, "I couldn't be more pleased."
For more music news, interviews and concert reviews, visit The Music Scene at www.accessatlanta.com.
"Kings of the Mic"
With LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Public Enemy and De La Soul. 7:30 p.m. June 4. $42-$172. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-855-285-8499, www.foxatltix.com.
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