14 Shots To The Dome was supposed to be the album that solidified LL Cool J’s place in the rap pantheon, following the monumental success of his comeback album, 1990’s Mama Said Knock You Out. Things didn’t exactly work out that way. First off, the album was delayed constantly over the course of a year. Then changing tides in hip-hop necessitated that LL revise his strategy in order to keep his fan base (or that’s what he thought). There was scream-rap, there was gangsta rap, there was weird psychedelic rap. It didn’t all come off, and LL sounded quite desperate in some parts. The album quickly went Platinum based off of shipments* (Soundscan states that the album has only scanned about 600K copies) but fell off the map rather quickly.
“Back Seat (Of My Jeep)” (the parenthetical title was added for the single release) succeeded because it sounded like an LL song. The trunk-rattling production from QDIII (son of Quincy Jones) helped, sure. But LL’s often at his best when he’s playing the Lothario. Particularly when it’s done with as much boyish charm as it is on “Back Seat.” His wordplay (and the fact that he’s clearly not taking himself all that seriously) is what makes this song win. This sexual episode contains a stop for drive-through chicken, a Bruce Lee impression, and an interpolation of the old school MC standby “somebody…everybody…scream!” He also takes time to admire his partner’s legs, her gold tooth, and…her apparently untrimmed pubes (“I like it when it’s bushy!”) Crass? Maybe when he busts a nut in his date’s eye, but I guess everything else relative. I think that much like Tribe’s “Electric Relaxation” (which quotes this very song in its third verse), the base humor is charming, coming as it does from fellas barely in their twenties.
“Back Seat” was almost a precursor to 1996’s joyously filthy “Doin’ It”, only without the male/female back and forth that made that particular song such a classic. L’s lyrics are nasty without being insulting. Unlike most hip-hop made with a sexual bent (at the time, anyway), the female LL is rhyming to isn’t being objectified. She’s a willing, happy participant in the fun, as the female giggles and moans interspersed throughout the song make clear. Props to LL for making a record that portrays sex as a fun activity for both parties involved.
Also, “Back Seat” is probably the most-bleeped record in hip-hop history to not contain a single curse word. Which stopped me for a second and made me realize that most of LL’s ‘90s output is entirely four letter word-free. He was basically Will Smith with even more charisma (imagine that), better rhyme skills, street credibility and…well, then there’s the sex appeal. LL could’ve made “Summertime” but The Fresh Prince would’ve gotten laughed out of Philly if he tried to make a record like “Back Seat”.
This song gets 10 out of 10 lip-licks.
*When an album is shaping up to be a flop, labels often rush to certify it Gold or Platinum.