INTERVIEW: LL Cool J, Smooth Groves and Sweet Talk

Flowing bass grooves slip in and out of syncopated rhythms. Women in hip-huggers and bathing suits, the video’s requisite “hoes,” gyrate to the beat, slinking against the calm outline of an ever present rap superstar. We watch as the gold around his neck reflects the light, offering a contour to his exposed dark, rippling chest. So Mr. Cool J, how long have you been a pimp?

“I didn’t know I was a pimp. That’s some new news for me.”

Sure it is L.L. This coming from a guy who was sipping Cristal when Jay-Z was still using diaper wipes. What’s the phrase? Dare I say it? Bling bling, ladies and gentlemen, bling bling.

For the past 15 years L.L. Cool J has surrounded himself with beautiful women and beautiful things. Sitting at the bar however, he’s not so boisterous. After all he is a married man. He stares quietly, sipping nonchalantly from his glass, and waiting as the Raiders fall prey to another tragedy. It’s Superbowl Sunday and he’s stuck in a hotel bar. Why you ask? Because he’s got interviews to do and he can’t stray too far.

“In music you can be late,” says Cool J speaking quietly to this Hatchet reporter. “Leave when you wanna. Arrive when you wanna. In film you’ve got to be there on time.”

Cool J, born James Todd Smith, certainly knows how to arrive on time. He showed up on the rap scene in the late 1980s offering such party tunes as the Grammy winning “Mama said Knock You Out” and “Don’t Call it a Comeback.” He’s released a slew of albums since then and also dipped into quite a few films. His movie credits include roles in the films Toys, Rollerball, Deep Blue Sea and the new film Deliver Us From Eva. As Cool J says, he always expected to get into film, but he never expected to do a romance flick.

“I did think about film, but it was more movies like Enter the Dragon, or something,” he says.

Instead of playing a ninja warrior, Cool J has opted for a more subdued role. In Eva he plays a lower middle class playboy out to get the girl. This role, Cool J’s first on the front lines, does seem an unexpected turn for a rapper of such repute. This being said, the actor himself is not afraid of the gap between his role in the film and his reputation as a rapper. He thinks foes and fans alike will embrace the performance.

“Its just an opportunity to show people I can really stretch,” says Cool J. “People who are really familiar with my music may feel one way about this role, but people who aren’t feel it differently.”

But how much of a stretch is it? Deliver Us From Eva is clearly classified as a romantic comedy, and that genre is often demeaned for its simplicity. Cool J brushes aside such criticism saying that he’s just out to have a good time.

“Some things are fairy tales,” says Cool J. “This ain’t a documentary. Don’t judge it like it’s the Discovery Channel.”

He might have a point. Though Eva is clearly a romantic-comedy, its power may not be in content but rather in its cast. As Cool J explains it, the film’s strength is that it presents an image of black America that is often forsaken in film.

“A lot of people think that black people only really live in the ghetto,” says Cool J. “It’s not really like that. There are black people who aren’t in the ghetto and who aren’t in Beverly Hills either.”

Cool J sees it as his task and the film’s to present an image of black Americans that is not bound to stereotypes. You won’t see any fumbling comedians or streetwise ghetto folk in this movie.

“There’s a world out there full of black people that are doing OK,” says Cool J, defining his mission. “Now you’re just seeing that.”
So clearly Cool J is thinking through his role. As he explains, acting has always seemed like a natural medium for his creative impulses.

“Once you know what the character’s point of view is, you can utilize your instincts through the character to express yourself,” says Cool J. “Whether you’re a sculptor, a painter, a composer, a musician or an actor, there’s still that fine line of creativity that exists.”

Though he enjoys making films, Cool J says that he does miss the immediate gratification of an audience. As he admits, “The energy’s different. There aren’t 20,000 people on stage.”

Along performing for the camera, Cool J also finds it difficult to lose control of a project.

“For me I don’t rely on anyone in music,” he says. “For this you have to rely on other actors.”

Cool J does take pride however in the fact that, for his character, he can rely on his past experiences. Like his character, Cool J claims that he’s used to having women come to him for a little loving. So maybe he’s not a sex god, but as Cool J states, “That has been an ongoing issue in my life.”

“Well then,” I ask. “If you’re not a pimp, would you emulate your character and turn down easy sex?

“That’s a stretch.”

Finally, the truth. Bling bling, my friends, bling bling.

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