st. martin's press


I Make My Own Rules

Considering the status and high profile, even outside of the hip hop circles, it’s only fair that LL Cool J is the first to step to the plate and delivers his autobiography. And even though you might not be fan or don’t like LL at all, this feat makes it an essential hip hop read. Also because he got a story to tell. Luckily, because what’s a book without content?

Not only does LL talk about his past, in a way he also touches the present (like when he’s talking about Foxy Brown using his "Rock The Bells" beat) and future. But what is very frustrating, that the stories are not in a chronological order. He separated the book into chapters of topics and not phases in his live. He could have split the book into chapters with the same names as his albums, and the reader would always know what happened back then when he did the album. Sure this would have attracted the problem of touching topics again and again, but you wouldn’t be faced with the ever returning question "wait, when was that?", like you are now, until he mentions a song or year again.

The story to tell is interesting, touching everything without trying to hide himself from watchful eyes, but it’s rather exposing if not exhibitionistic in an honest manner. He talks about the pride of Africa, his love for hip hop, his family and crooked relationship to his now wife, his father trying to kill his mother and grandparents, the tortures his stepfather put LL through. And each one of these harsh memories is told in a chit chat style, just like a friend would share his anecdotes with you on the front porch.

But this is where the interesting and good part ends. His high goals of reaching and changing people and kids, are tried to be accomplished with a "...and I learned from this, that..." at the end of each chapter. But he seems that he himself still has a lot of learning to do. Because these self ‘inflicted’ insights are oftentimes lacking any intellectual approach or psychological value, and are rather statements a ‘role model’ is supposed to say. Of course LL is believing himself, and what he’s saying and maybe that’s all that really matters.

Hiding behind his faith in God and stressing the point that some things he did were wrong or ‘sick’, he still seems awfully proud and happy while boasting about his sexual encounters. He even gives a tongue in cheek reference to his wife. Him calling Canibus ‘Corny-puss’ shows an immaturity he just spent a book on saying that he left it behind. In self analysis he puts all fault on his stepfather mistreating him, while referring to himself as a ‘smart kid’ (really, you don’t think you were a stupid kid?), never taking a stand and saying "Damn, I was young, successful, had money and chick. What do you expect?". That would have been a real honest statement, but political correctness prevents honesty like that.

review by tadah

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