Does gun imagery glamorize gun violence? "I think if you're not careful it could," Smith said. "When you do that, you also have to do songs like 'Crossroads' and 'Power of God' to balance it out.
"Sometimes I have ideas I know wouldn't be good to put out. They can be too violent, have too much profanity in them. It's not that I want to dilute or sell out, but I try to keep in mind who's listening. A lot of kids don't have the ability to sort out reality from fantasy.
"I just try to do it with class, man, that's all," he summed up. "If I'm going to use weapons imagery or something sexual or risque, I try to do it in a classy way. I don't try to do it just raunchy. I want to be accepted as a musician, somebody who did cool songs. I'm not trying to make a statement about my background or how tough I am. I'm into the art form, not into this 'I'm a rapper that grew up on the railroad tracks' thing. That's a whole different breed of rapper."
Like many rap stars, Cool J has launched a side-career as an actor, most recently playing a comic role as a villain who sees the light in the Robin Williams fantasy "Toys."
"I'm interested in more (acting roles), as long as they're not stereotypical," J said.
But he also said he'll continue to put most of his effort into music. The LL Cool J you hear on record insists that he will head the hip-hop heap unto infinity. The offstage Smith is more circumspect.
"I'd like to keep taking shots at this until people don't seem interested any more," he said. "Then I'll move on."