LL Cool J heading toward Def Jam 'Exit'

Rapper's contract is about to end

NEW YORK -- LL Cool J is gearing up to release his next album, "Exit 13," on July 18 via Def Jam. The veteran artist released the first single, "I Cry" featuring R&B singer Lil' Mo, Tuesday on the Web.

"Exit 13" will be LL Cool J's last release on Def Jam because his contract has come to an end, the rapper told New York radio station Hot 97. The MC signed to the label as a teen and has released 12 albums on Def Jam.

Last year, LL Cool J publicly expressed his distaste with how Jay-Z was running Def Jam, and lately told Hot 97 he's optimistic about the label's fortunes now that Jay-Z has departed.

LL Cool J's last album, 2006's "Todd Smith," has sold 335,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.