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LL Cool J Announces SXSW 2013 Performance, Partners with Doritos — EXCLUSIVE Interview

LL Cool J is bringing his legendary catalog of hit songs to SXSW 2013.

The 45-year-old rapper-cum-actor has a new album dropping — Authentic, due in stores April 30 — and has partnered with Doritos for their “For The Bold” campaign, which will see him hosting and performing at the tortilla chip powerhouse’s #BoldStage. He’s bringing along friends like Ice Cube, Public Enemy and Doug E. Fresh too, who will also perform.

But it won’t be entirely about the legends that night (March 14). Three rising talents — Devin Miles, Seth Sentry and Snow Tha Product — will compete ahead of LL’s headlining performance to open up the show (the winner will be selected via Twitter response). The entire show will be streamed live on Doritos’ Facebook page.

We spoke to LL Cool J before he heads down to Austin and picked his brain about SXSW, hosting the Grammys, his new music and the current rap scene.

How does it feel for a rapper of your caliber and recognition to be hosting and performing at a SXSW, which is primarily known for indie artists?

I think it’s great. That’s where the true artists are. The big icons that I have met and worked with and rubbed shoulders — whether it be at the Grammy’s or in the studio — all have that same fire that these artists have at SXSW. That fire never leaves. It never dies. Never goes away. If anything it’s a compliment to be on the same stage with some of the hungriest people in the world. I feel it’s kind of like comparing college players to NFL players. Some of the big guys in the NFL keep that hunger from the time they are in college to when they make it to the big leagues. So I am definitely excited for it.

What are you excited for most at the event for SXSW?

The opportunity to be interactive with the audience, more than I ever been. We got everything from the 62-foot-tall vending machine to performances with Doug E. Fresh, Ice Cube and Public Enemy. I’m really excited to see who wins and opens up for us to see what kind of energy they bring to the concert and what evolves from that happening.

In your promo video for the “For The Bold” campaign (ed note: watch at the end of this post) you say you want someone who is bold, dynamic and adventurous. In the hip-hop world right now who do you think has those qualities?

There are quite a few guys that fit that bill, for different reasons though. [Lil] Wayne is like that, Kanye [West] is like that. Those are two that definitely come to mind. In the grand scheme of things when it comes to legends you have ones like Public Enemy and Eminem that definitely have those characteristics. I am definitely like that. When I think about the way my new record sounds it fits those qualities. That is what we are hoping to find at the Doritos #BoldStage event at SXSW.

What was your overall experience in hosting/performing at the Grammy’s this year?

It was a lot of positive energy in the air. I tried to make it fun and keep the show moving throughout the night. The quality of performances were amazing and I really enjoyed them. The Bob Marley tribute for one stood out to me and I also really liked fun.‘s as well, with the whole water beating on them and their instruments.

The song “Whaddup” has a feel to it that is like “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Is that the arena you are headed in with your upcoming release Authentic?

The record has a lot of energy and a great bravado to it but at the same time it’s really diverse. Where I am headed with this is still doing the music that I love to do but keeping it current in the 2013 style. Ultimately it’s just a true and authentic album that comes from the heart. I’m very curious to see how people receive it because I don’t think it’s what people expect from me.

When you came out with “I Need Love” back in the 80′s you were criticized for going soft in an industry that is known for being tough and hard. So many artists like Drake these days do both elements really without critique, so do you think that element has changed in hip-hop?

I think that’s just part of being one of the first people to do something. You get the praise and you get the criticism. I’m glad that people can realize my contributions to the genre and really become a meaningful part of what that is about. I’m happy to be one of the people to pave the way for that. Each time you get to do that it’s a wonderful pat on the back for any artist. I’m very grateful for how my career has developed and I don’t think I could’ve started at a better time. It’s interesting because when most of my people started we were ineligible for Grammys. Now I’ve been hosting it for the past two years, so that’s another first. I’ve learned throughout that just because you are the first at something doesn’t always mean its instant gratitude, it comes with time.

That said, are you happy with the rap industry right now?

I mean what kind of hip-hop are you talking about? If it is the type that you hear on the radio nowadays and you are a 34-year-old who grew up on hip-hop from the beginning you may not like it as much. If you are talking about some of the music that is out there online, there are a variety of artists that are putting together some really unique stuff. I think hip-hop as a genre is very sub-divided in the sense that there are a bunch of sub-categories that go along with it. I think overall it’s definitely not as bold, dynamic and adventurous as it was when we first broke the doors down. That’s why it is the perfect time for me to get with Doritos and do a contest like this to find someone that has those characteristics. I’m not trying to be an elder statesman that slams the whole genre, that’s not how I want to come across and not who I am. Just the way I see things in its current state.

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