Sonically, Doctor's Advocate threw up Ws throughout. Does L.A.X.'s sound stay Westbound?
No, this album doesn't have a [distinct] sound. It's a universal, summertime album. All the songs give you a good feeling. Doctor's Advocate was the sad moment in my career, when I was really feeling down and had to get stuff off my chest. I don't really vent on this one. It's for everybody.

Even hip-hop's lost ones. What inspired you to write the Stan-ish tribute, "Never Can Say Goodbye”?
I wanted to be in Biggie, Pac and Eazy E's shoes the last 10 minutes of their lives, so I wrote verses as if I were. In their last moments, they knew they were going to die, or at least felt they might. And I got shot and felt like it was over for me. I've got something in common with them, except I didn't pass; I came back to life.

Wow, that's six-feet deep. How'd it feel working with your hero, living legend Ice Cube, on "State of Emergency”?
I was starstruck the whole time. I'm pretty sure dude was like, "Is this nigga a homo or what?” I was a kid when Cube was doing his thing. So to have him laying vocals on my song—that was so fucking big to me. It's Cali at its best, man. That's one of the first times I knew I was really living my dream.

For those keeping count, the name-drop tally is already at four. Do you pause the name game on L.A.X.?
I'm more of a hip-hop reporter than a rapper. So I need names to get my point across. That's my style. Am I supposed to never say anybody's name? If people really care that much, then don't buy my album. My core audience doesn't have a problem with it. It's just the critics, so that doesn't really matter to me. Name one critic who can outrap me. I'll slay their ass.

For rappers, retirement is more bogus than the gold-tooth fairy. How do you plan on fading to black for good?
I got two kids; they keep me busy. It takes a lot out of you to produce classic albums. Jay-Z ain't got kids, so he probably gets bored, probably can't stay away. I got a label, I'm producing now. I produced two tracks on this album with my homeboy EP. I'm not making no songs talking about retirement, but unless something crazy happens, this is going to be the last one.

L.A.X. hits shelves on Tuesday, August 26, 2008