Filed under: Features,Killa Queens,Not Your Average,Old Moufs,Speaker Smashers,Steady Bootleggin',Tape Vaults,The Unkut Opinion
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Media Assassin Harry Allen loves him some Twitter. Good thing he drops some jewels like this:
I don’t think LL Cool J’s legacy and value to the history of hip-hop has been, in any way, seriously addressed. Delete him, and much of hip-hop history vanishes, or becomes unfathomable. LL, in a very real way, may be the GOAT.
Good point. Why exactly is Todd Smith‘s contribution often ignored? Is the fact that he still releases music and movies, long after his creative and commercial peak, diminishing the value of his legacy? As the originator of the awkward (but widely adapted) GOAT tag, there’s no denying that LL Cool J was the ultimate MC. Arrogant to a fault, he went-up against the rap establishment of the day and destroyed them all. Never lost a battle. Your girl had his poster on her bedroom wall. You had his tape in your Walkman. Laid the blueprint for combining ‘street’ records with broad-baiting chart toppers. Had the stones to kick Champagne Rap years before it became trendy….hold up. That’s a plus? Let’s not forget the ugly part of Cool J’s legacy either – he also made a career of ‘artistic compromise’. He was kicking ‘I Want You’ and ‘I Can Give You More’ to the dames on Radio, but the drum machine was still knocking in the background, but that ‘I Need Love’ shit? There was a reason he got booed off stage under a hail of coins from betrayed hardcore b-boys in the UK. In retrospect it seems like a stroke of marketing genius, but try explaining that to a kid who had memorized every line of ‘Rock The Bells’.
LL is the reason that so many admire Jay-Z’s ability to mix hardcore, club and pop records on any given album. A purists nightmare who recorded some of the rawest examples of pure lyrically wizardry every set to a beat. Did what he had to in order to survive in the shark-infested waters of the music industry, and we loved to hate him for it. Even Mama Said Knock You Out, which contains blood-thirsty burners such as ‘Murdergram’ and ‘To Da Break of Dawn’ is littered with the usual Cool J lover man jams that no red-blooded male would ever be caught dead blasting out their car window. But how can you deny the stripes of a kid who literally had thirty garbage bags full of rhymes that he’d penned while he still in high school? Who still came out his grandma’s house even though every tough guy in Queens was gunning for him ‘cos he winked at their shorty? And who, at the height of his game, was without a shadow of a doubt the best rapper in the world.
It’s easy to blame Uncle L for many of today’s unfortunate trends – rapper’s who want to act, rapper’s who hate wearing shirts and rapper’s who love hats, but there are just as many standards that he set that have sadly been allowed to fall by the wayside. Things like advanced vocabularies.
Silver Fox, who mentored LL that summer before he signed with Def Jam, explained another aspect of the Cool J phenomenon:
‘All the old school rappers were getting older, and there was a new generation that were buying records – and you don’t want to buy a record that your dad’s making, right? And L opened up the door for a lotta these young cats to start coming out. Before there was a Will Smith, there was LL! What I love about L, man – his first album, there wasn’t a curse word on it! Wait, maybe one song [laughs] He did ‘Jack The Ripper’ – that was the baddest! Wasn’t no cursing, no talking about slinging your drugs. He didn’t talk about what kind of gold he had on – he just wore it! He didn’t talk about his watch – he just let you see it!’
That all seems like such a long time ago…actually, it was. While having a sit-com and writing fitness books might do wonders for his image with mainstream America, LL’s extra-curricular activities have gradually diminished his brand as a Top 10 Dead-Or Alive MC. Do you need to be gunned-down in your prime or become a multi-millionaire in order to be in consideration for the upper-tier of Greatest MC’s lists?
LL Cool J – ‘Rock The Bells’ [Original]
LL Cool J – Live Freestyle Over ‘It’s Yours’
LL Cool J – ‘I Need A Beat’ [Original]’
LL Cool J – ‘Murdergram’
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