LL Cool J’s Radio Turns 30. Watch His 1st Ever Interview & Other Early Moments (Video)
Thirty years ago today (November 18), LL Cool J released his debut album Radio and launched not only one of Hip-Hop’s most enduring careers, but also one of its most iconic record labels in Def Jam Recordings. While the company that Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin built had released prior records, it was LL Cool J and Radio that made the company the flagship cultural force in the then nascent Hip-Hop movement.
While Radio was released in 1985, LL first made his mark in 1984 on the radically different sounding single “I Need A Beat,” which abandoned the disco and synth sounds of the time, in favor of booming 808 drums, hard scratching and even harder rhyming. He made an even bigger splash in his show-stealing scene in 1984’s Krush Groove, as a hungry rapper trying to break into the business. While the real-life scenario was not an acting stretch, his energy and charisma showed that he was a superstar in the making.
Related: Can You Feel It: Why 1984 Is Hip-Hop’s Watershed Moment (Food For Thought)
After Krush Groove, the anticipation for a full body of work from the young Queens MC reached a fever pitch and, when it dropped late the following year, it did not disappoint. From the album’s opening, Cool J literally commanded listeners to join him in turning their volume “way past 10” and the energy did not relent until the album’s close. Nearly every song from “Dear Yvette” to “You’ll Rock” to “You Can’t Dance” sported Rubin’s signature viciously hard-hitting drums and LL’s booming voice. Perhaps none hit harder than “Rock The Bells” with its razor-sharp scratches and lyrics decrying how soft the music of the day was, from Madonna to Prince. Only on “I Can Give You More” and “I Want You” did he give a hint as to why the full version of his moniker was Ladies Love Cool James.
Perhaps even greater than the music, however, was the megawatt personality LL put on display, both on wax and in person. In addition to it allowing him to extend his career through three decades as an artist, it eventually took him to both the big and small screens as an actor, host and all-around celebrity. Here’s a look back at his first interview ever. Even then, the star factor is there.
#bonusbeat: Here’s an interview from just over a year later. It’s fascinating to see the growth that has taken place in just a few months, how differently his own life would turn out than he envisioned and, how relevant many of the things he is saying about Hip-Hop and its affect on youth still remain today.
Related: LL Cool J’s Album Mama Said Knock You Out Turns 25. Here’s How It Re-Defined His Career