LL Cool J: 15 minutes with a rap icon

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It was a different type of Father's Day backstage at Universal Orlando on Saturday night.

LL Cool J had a chance to talk up one of his "new kids." And he looked like a proud papa.

Luther "Squeak" Jackson joined the rap icon for a 20-minute interview with the Sentinel after cooling off from a hot set in the Florida heat, where they both talked about their involvement with the budding music site, Boomdizzle.com, "Squeak's" unlikely journey to joining LL on stage and the latter's return to the television screen in the upcoming "NCIS: Los Angeles."

Here is a selection of 10 questions from the interview:

So, LL, what did you see in Squeak to make you want to put him on stage?Just seeing a kid with a lot of talent. Someone that creates such amazing music, obviously when we created Boomdizzle, we wanted to create a platform for artists like Squeak, to give them a chance. I am constantly scouring through the music, I am listening to the artists, I live on the site. I have my kids involved.

When I heard Squeak's music, I went to it, listened to some other things, went back to it, listened to some other things, come back to it again. Then, I was like, "You know what, this guy is really talented." And, like I said on stage, you have guys who make terrible music with four ears, them and their friend. And, my man Squeak is making this incredible music (with one ear).

I am just a guy that doesn't believe in limitations. Obviously, we all have limitations, but once you know what they are, you can move past them. When I heard his music, I was just overwhelmed. Put him up in the All-Star competition and the kids voted him in. They really liked the song. We just took the song, mixed it and made sure it had a real, professional sound to it. It is his creation.

Squeak, you get a big name to support you and the fans choose you to win the Boomdizzle challenge, what's that feel like?First, it never could have happened without the faith. It was overwhelming. I know it was a little bit of talent, but the story behind it and that LL and his crew had a passion about what I have been through. It was all that I expected.

LL, your story never seems to stop. Will it?For me, the live music is something I will always do because I have people who have grown up with my music. They are my age, they were teenagers when I came out and they really can relate to me. I am not out to compete with the new generation, I know my place in the music community. Not pretending to be 18, I was over that 10 years ago. I am not looking to do a lot of albums, I am looking to do live music. I am not looking to retire, but artists are always looking to create. But, in terms of competing, it's guys like Squeak that I want to get out there and let them blow up and do their thing. Experience this new industry what I experienced back when I was that age.

By completing my contract and that part of my life, I am in a position to be forward-thinking again. But within the construct that this new industry exists. Be a leader and create a site like Boomdizzle.com and use the technological advances that exist today to give these guys an opportunity in a way that they can understand. These guys have grown up on the Internet. My thing is just giving them the opportunity and building them up and being passionate about it. Being successful in that. The one thing you don't want to do is to keep repeating yourself. You have to push yourself to a new level. This is not the stereotypical "retiring" because you never get over music. It's just that you have to know when to move on, grow up. But that doesn't mean you can't be successful, you just have to find a way to take that next step.

It's going to be his responsibility to put himself the responsibility of having 20,000 people (the crowd at Universal on Saturday) for his music. That's up to him and his talent. But he'll have every opportunity to do that, I believe in him. He sounds great, his single is great on the radio and it was great live tonight. The people enjoyed it. First time they heard it, they were just watching at the beginning, but by the end they had their hands in the air. That tells me they responded to the music.

You both seem to embrace the Web, which other artists have rejected. Why use it to your advantage?Squeak: The opportunity is there, and that's what it is all about, the Internet. Radio has its limitations, the Internet is so big and broad, everyone is on there downloading. You've got YouTube, MySpace and any other avenue that is connected to the internet.

LL: These sites are becoming an extension of the Internet now. It's almost like a giant cloud and we are becoming extensions of that. It used to be that we were going to the Internet, now it's like we are extensions of the Internet. Everyone is on their Blackberry, there is going to be a point where you will touch a chair (during a concert) and it will tell you everything you need to know (about a song). One thing I have learned is that if you don't like change, then you like irrelevance even less. And one of the most important things you can do is to embrace that change and not be afraid of it and not reject it. That's what is interesting about Boomdizzle is that just because I got older as an artist, it doesn't mean that I didn't think on an innovative level. It just means that I have matured in that area. But I am still light years ahead in terms of my vision of where things are going and the technological advances that are getting ready to come and the things we are getting ready to introduce to the public thru boomdizzle, it all reminds me of how we started Def Jam 25 years ago. It's a new way of doing it; in 10-15-20 years, people will talk about Boomdizzle in the same way they talked about Def Jam. Right now, it's just this new little thing, just like Def Jam was. What's Def Jam? But, Boomdizzle is that new thing online. It's not just another MySpace, it's not just another YouTube, it's not that. Although people think that at this point. But, once you see the things we are about to introduce, artists are going to be very happy, and if I was an 18 or 19-year-old artist, I'd be on Boomdizzle all day. I know what it's going to be.

Will Boomdizzle.com embrace all types of music?We are going to expand to all genres. We have had some great conversations. I am not going to limit it. But, we're starting with what I know and what I am known for first. But there will

You guys had a vibe on stage, anything together in the near future?LL: As I told Squeak, he can produce one of my little singles. Or I can rap on his record if he wants me to. But, personally, I'd rather see one of these new kids on his new record. I'd rather see T.I. or Soulja Boy or Lil' Wayne on his record. I want him to be able to embrace the now, and I don't weigh him down with all that "legendary" stuff. That's not necessary. I don't need to be out front with this. I am very comfortable giving him the opportunity and fading to the background. I just want him have a successful career, I want all these kids to succeed. We have 14,000 kids on Boomdizzle already, and Squeak made it through that bunch. But, there is a lot of talent on there and there is more coming. He is just the first one. There is a whole generation of kids that are really talented and sitting there saying, "Mom, I want to make a song. Mom, I want to make a record. Mom, I want music. Mommy, I need a beat machine. Mom, I need this and I need that." I am here to help them.

Squeak, how does it feel to be first?Still not over yet, the dream is getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It's definitely an honor though.

Now, LL, you are one busy man, with NCIS: Los Angeles and all of this Boomdizzle stuff, how does this all work? And, you have to be getting pretty excited, right?NCIS: Los Angeles is a great way, I am doing (the show) with Chris O'Donnell, to continue to express myself artistically and do it a way that allows me to grow and my audience to grow along with me. When they say "Oh, LL has a new TV show," my fans are going to be excited again. They are going to look at it as new and fresh. For me, that's fun. And that's exciting. I love acting. I am committed to that.

We are going to stay true to the original NCIS, but with a bit more action and technological innovations. Lockheed-Martin actually brought in some new software for the first couple pilot episodes. It's going to be exciting. It's also worldwide. We're in Latin America, in Europe, it's an international show. It's the beginning of a journey, I hope people enjoy it.

Will the show help Boomdizzle?Yeah, I think it will give me an opportunity to introduce CBS to some of these great artists, online of course. In the right way, of course, nothing will be forced. But, if there is some organic synergy there, if there is something natural there that is good for everybody and great for CBS, then we'll do it. Anything I can do to help the show and Boomdizzle, I'm going to do it, it just has to be appropriate and not forced.

Squeak, what can you learn from LL?To stay at it. Keep going. It's hard work, I know it's hard work. The journey has just begun. He's put in 20-plus years, and that is motivation for me. I just want to go to work. Hopefully, in many years, I can sit back and say this man was a part of my legacy. 40 years.

Dude, LL, most 20-year-olds aren't in as good of shape as you, how do you do it?We just do workouts all the time. Today, we did pull-ups, planks, benched, rows, flys, sprints…all in the 100 degrees. All before the show. That's why I was standing up there telling everyone I felt like I was standing in a microwave with aluminum biker shorts on. It was hot.

One of the hottest shows you can remember?It was definitely up there. I've done shows with the flu, where I am sitting up there sideways on my chair, barely able to talk. But, it was up there. We've been through a lot over the years. I've had all kinds of interesting things happen to me on stage, and that is what Squeak is going to go through. You are going to fall up steps, you are going to trip and hit your head on the speaker and still try to act like it is cool, you are going to slip…you are going to have everything. It's always an adventure. But, that's the beauty of the art, the audience understands, as long as you do it in good taste. Like tonight, the audience understood it was hot. They're not crazy. They knew I was up there sweating like an animal. That's why I can talk to them, they know what it is.

I like to have a lot of fun. That's why I said, as long as God gives me the strength to keep doing them, I want to continue to do the live stuff. The albums? That's another issue. But, I never want to turn my back on what got me here. You have artists that turn their back on that and just say, "I'm over that now. I am doing television. I have to walk and talk and react." I'm not doing that. We'll keep doing this.

But, it's these guys time now.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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