LL Cool J, Red Hot Chili Peppers, “I Make My Own Rules,” and less-than-sums

Getting the writing engine going with a few words about whatever comes up next on my random playlist. This is A.M. Shuffle, and today, we’re talking LL Cool J & the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “I Make My Own Rules.”

Back in the 1990s, Howard Stern was a one-man version of what’s now Twitter and Facebook: not in the sense of a social network, but in the sense of multiple narratives and art styles and media all colliding in one location. Stern had enough cultural heft to get actors, musicians, comedians, and assorted weirdos all in the same room, and when he did, amazing things could and did happen.

Stern was able to get some serious musical muscle on board for the soundtrack to his biopic “Private Parts,” hence this song. The reason? Stern talked about the movie incessantly for pretty much an entire year, and anybody on the soundtrack could count on tons of exposure as Stern gloated about their work. Enter: this strange little hybrid.

private_parts_cover_1

Look, we love the Peppers. And LL Cool J holds a special place in the heart of every middle-aged white dude who toe-dipped into harder rap as a suburban youth. The thing is, this all feels like they’re doing cover versions of themselves.

Sure, the Flea bass line coils around your gut, and Chad Smith’s drums feel like slaps to the ribs. LL, or Mr. Cool J, or whatever we ought to call him, says all the right things in his lyrics about the sad state of the world in the 1990s (which also applies just fine to the 2010s). It’s just all so … rote. Even, heaven forbid, safe.

By this point in musical history, rappers and rock bands weren’t anything new; the landmark “Judgment Night” soundtrack had already been out for three years or so. We were still a few years away from the godawful rap-rock hybrids (more on that, and some related true confessions, in a future installment) coming to stain the radio. But songs like this inspired people in all the wrong directions.

It’s mostly forgotten now; I hadn’t heard this song in at least a decade before it popped up this morning, and I don’t ever recall hearing it outside Stern’s show. But hey, if I could get these guys to record a song for the movie about my life story, hell, I’d take whatever they gave me too.

Jay

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