LL Cool J’s Radio vs. Kurtis Blow’s Ego Trip. Which Is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
In 1980, Kurtis Blow would release his eponymous debut album, and with it, he would become Rap’s first bona fide superstar and sex symbol. He would hold those titles without challenge through 1984 when he released arguably his finest album, Ego Trip. One year later, however, a young MC would burst onto the scene seeking not only to overtake him, but the entire Hip-Hop world. LL Cool J was on an ego trip of his own and, with his debut album Radio, he would channel the same swagger that fueled Blow and turn it way past 10. Together, Radio and Ego Trip were precursors for a future that would be dominated by solo efforts. In the mid-80s, however, they were trendsetting outliers. Which has a greater place in history? Click on one then click vote.
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Radio by LL Cool J
L.L. Cool J’s (as stylistically presented then) Radio is a benchmark Rap album. In one fell swoop, it introduced a solo artist, a sound—and dominated the space. From Kane to Kanye, everybody since wanted the kind of debut fanfare that LL showed to be possible. The 1985 Def Jam Records release delivered a St. Albans Queens, New York MC with an unrivaled energy to command audiences. This LP owned its greatness on songs like “Rock The Bells” and “I Need A Beat (Remix).” In these moments, James Todd Smith strained his vocals to assert the fact that he was second to none in position or innovation. Moreover, the album allowed Cool J to show his range. Slow and sweet tunes like “I Want You” and “I Can Give You More” were unashamed to position the rapper as a sensitive sex symbol. There was no incubator pop on the Rick Rubin and DJ Jazzy Jay-produced debut, and yet LL Cool J proved immediately to have the biggest and youngest audience in Hip-Hop.
Engaging male and female audiences, Hip-Hop Heads and newcomers together, Radio was the perfect composite of “1985 cool.” Smooth talking, fast-rapping, and hard rhyming, LL Cool J was everything at once—never pandering or forcing his microphone. Rick Rubin led the charge in presenting a booming bass, hard-edge back-beat that understood Cool J’s skill, potential, and range. Cut Creator’s fast hands moved the crowd in an album that did reach “radio,” along with video—while never losing the streets. In many ways, LL Cool J followed Radio‘s balanced blueprint for the next 30 years—making songs that exude hardness and those that showed sensitivity, right beside each other.
Album Number: 1
Released: November 18, 1985
Label: Def Jam/Columbia Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): #46 (certified gold, April 1986; certified platinum April 1988)
Song Guests: Cut Creator, Russell Simmons
Song Producers: Rick Rubin, DJ Jazzy Jay
Ego Trip by Kurtis Blow
At a time when most Hip-Hop artists aspired to have range and endurance for one album, Kurtis Blow achieved greatness on his fifth. The Harlem native New Yorker had captivated audiences since the late 1970s with catchy choruses, stellar showmanship, and songs chiseled at Hip-Hop’s mainstream potential. It is not coincidental that Blow got Rap’s first gold single (1980’s “The Breaks”). However, Rap has been historically fickle, and nearly four years later, Kurtis’ Ego Trip accepted nothing less than top-billing. The Mercury Records LP is only seven songs, but each covered a corner of Blow’s repertoire. Hit “Basketball” presented Kurtis Walker’s ability to rhyme about something seemingly mundane and tertiary, and make it sound incredible. “Fallin’ Back In Love Again” maintained Blow’s status as a ladies’ man that carried R&B themes seamlessly into his raps. “Ego Trip” was pure Rap bravado, showing Kurtis as the last man standing, commercially-speaking, from the pioneering class of MCs.
Ego Trip at just over 42 minutes, packed no filler. “AJ Scratch” was a peppy ode to Kool DJ AJ, Blow’s mentor and mixer. “8 Million Stories” is a gritty time capsule about New York City in the days when rent was low and crime was still high. Ego Trip showed that Kurtis Blow was Rap’s most trusted source as a soloist. His biggest contenders, Run-D.M.C. (appearing on this album) were perceived as proteges. Twenty-five years at the release of Ego Trip, Kurtis Blow was proving that Hip-Hop and rhyming were not fads in lives, let alone culture. Perhaps the most legitimate act at the turn of the ’80s had only risen in status and ability. Fast approaching the decade’s midpoint, he had relinquished nothing. A decade before Illmatic, Ego Trip showed the value in making a short, penetrating album without weak spots. Often overlooked (Ego Trip has never been issued on CD), Kurtis Blow is hugely responsible for the Rap album becoming an institution.
Album Number: 5
Released: September 24, 1984
Label: Mercury/Polygram Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): N/A
Song Guests: Run-D.M.C. (Run, D.M.C.), DJ A.J.
Song Producers: J.B. Moore, Robert Ford, Jr., Full Force
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.