The chart-topping rapper says he may quit his longtime label when his contract is up

By Brian M. Raftery
Updated August 31, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Richard Reyes

LL Cool J tells EW Online that he is considering leaving Def Jam, his record label of the past 15 years. If he were to make such a move, it would be the second high-profile departure from Def Jam in the past year. Hip-hop mainstays Public Enemy recently abandoned the label to work with Internet-based distributor Atomic Pop and publicly complained about Def Jam’s lack of support. But while Public Enemy’s sales had declined into the ’90s, LL has remained a reliable chart fixture, with all seven of his studio albums hitting the platinum sales mark of one million or more.

Though LL is still under contract with Def Jam for two more efforts — the first of which he hopes to release this November — he says he may seek alternative forms of distribution after his obligation to the label ends, though he declined to disclose whether this would mean a jump to another label or an online venture. “I wish Def Jam the best,” the rapper-actor says. “I just wanna give them my two albums and then explore my possibilities.” (The label did not return EW Online’s calls by press time.)

Def Jam — whose roster features DMX and Foxy Brown — was recently folded into the Universal Music Group. The move gave the label a financial boost but also prompted criticism from some members of the hip-hop community, who accused Def Jam of becoming more bottom-line-driven than bass-line-driven.

But LL says that with so many artists taking over the reins of their careers (Master P and the Artist, to name two), it may be time to move on while he’s still on top of his commercial game. “I?m glad that I?m in [rap] right now, because the majority of stars who are real popular right now are around my age. I can get out there and see what?s available.”

Still, LL’s relationship with the label is far from acrimonious. “[Def Jam] has helped me build a career to the point where I?m at,” he says, “and I helped them a little bit too.” Talk about laying down a smooth rap.