LL Cool J has had an illustrious career. From epic rap songs to movie-making and acting, the former emcee (real name James Smith) is a household name in hip-hop. However, when he arrived as part of Def Jam, he came with a new sound.
Powered by Rick Rubin, LL Cool J had a rock-inspired sound that made hip-hop sound larger than ever. It also had a mainstream appeal. Rubin’s musical interest stemmed primarily from the rock and roll genre. However, hip-hop and rock (both innately rebellious) informed his music and made him and his protégés powerhouses with mass appeal.
LL Cool J always had a love for rock and even continued to keep the genre at the centre of his music after the turn of the millennium. Furthermore, he collaborated with a legendary guitarist for his 2013 album Authentic.
In 2013, Smith released his album through S-BRO Music Group, 429 Records. It was his first project not to be released by Def Jam. With appearances from Snoop Dogg, Chuck D and Fatman Scoop, the body of work was hip-hop in its makeup. However, one of its tracks’ featured the band Fitz & The Tantrums and Van Halen guitarist Eddie Van Halen.
Eddie Van Halen began his career playing legendary rock clubs such as Whisky A Go Go in California and worked with Kiss bassist Gene Simmons. He even made a guest appearance on Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It.’
Having worked with so many legends, when LL was looking for a guitarist to add some edge to his track ‘Not Leaving You Tonight,’ he immediately asked Van Halen if he would contribute, which he did.
In a 2013 interview with Radio.com, Smith spoke about what it was like to work with the epic guitarist, stating, “I just really wanted to work with the best, work with people that I respect, people that I look up to, people that impress me, people that I believe are truly super talented… and even more talented than myself,”
He continued, “I feel like Eddie falls in that category. Now, Eddie Van Halen has officially done a hip-hop record. And I have officially worked with one of the greatest guitarists that ever lived.”
You can listen to ‘Not Leaving You Tonight’ in the video below.