LL Cool J’s Radio vs. MC Lyte’s Lyte As A Rock. 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 the 2010s, LL Cool J and MC Lyte have turned 1980s Hip-Hop beginnings into full fledged media careers. These two New York MCs are actors, hosts, philanthropists, and Rap role models. But what got these careers cemented? Each MC made everlasting debuts that paved the way. For Cool J, that platinum album established not only a career, but a label. Radio made an example out of Kurtis Blow’s Ego Trip, with the largest Round 1 winning margin. Meanwhile, Lyte As A Rock bested the menacing Just-Ice debut as a thoroughbred album—despite lacking commercial accolades. In Round 2, this is a battle of great, durable MCs—not the sexes. These are two definitive works from some of the best. So which is better? (Click on one then click “vote”)


Radio by LL Cool J

– First Round Winner (against Kurtis Blow’s Ego Trip, 93% to 7%)

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


Lyte As A Rock by MC Lyte

– First Round Winner (against Just-Ice’s Back To The Old School, 76% to 24%)

MC Lyte dropped one heavyweight debut care of 1988’s Lyte As Rock. The Brooklyn, New Yorker initially introduced as an Audio Two affiliate was quickly “top billin'” in a class of her own. With a rich, melodic vocal tone, and the perfect balance of hard microphone skills and feminine perspectives, Lana Michelle Moorer carved her own lane in a debut that resonates more than 25 years later. In a year that saw Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, and KRS-One aim to sever heads with hard Rap deliveries, “Paper Thin” stood as tall as the competition. The record attacked double-standard relationships, and stood up for women with elite lyrics and delivery. “10% Diss” entered Lyte into the battle ring upon her debut as well. The verbal jabs would become historic, referenced later by both Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown, as Lyte chased Antoinette (and seemingly her career) beyond the ropes.

Lyte As A Rock used the album format effectively. A battle MC in some places, Lyte was a feminist at times (“I Am Woman”), and simply a dazzling rapper in others (“Lyte Thee MC”). On the title track and “MC Lyte Likes Swingin’,” the showmanship was clear, as Lyte’s smooth flow waxed words like conversation.The LP spoke to young women, but was also respected to the utmost in the hardcore Rap circles. Audio Two, King Of Chill, and a newly-freelancing Prince Paul supplied Lyte with heavy drum tracks that have aged the 27 years (this month) gracefully. Although the Lyte one’s greatest commercial hits would appear on later, major label albums, her debut is her most complete, most competitive work. Beyond simply women, this LP that could seamlessly switch from romantic gripes to Rap supremacy paved a way for Ghostface Killah and Drake just as much as Rah Digga and Nicki Minaj.

Album Number: 1
Released: September 13, 1988
Label: First Priority/Atlantic Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): N/A
Song Guests: N/A
Song Producers: Audio Two, King Of Chill, Prince Paul, Alliance

So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.

Related: Ambrosia For Heads’ Finding The GOAT: The Albums