Why LL Cool J Is The Original GOAT (Video)
Like Will Smith, Ice-T, and Queen Latifah, it may be easier to name an LL Cool J role in the last decade, than a song. However, James Todd Smith continues to make time for Hip-Hop (right now, with Dr. Dre), and when he’s right, he’s really sharp. Aside from that, “Uncle L” owes excuses to no one. The career forged by the Queens, New York MC between 1985 and 2000 speaks for itself, and truly gives any MC before, during, or sense a reason to salute the man, the myth, the legend.
Hip-Hop historian JayQuan looks at Cool J as an MC, exclusively in his latest video essay. Moreover, the longtime journalist/documentarian strictly analyzes 1985’s Radio and 1987’s Bigger and Deffer albums. He believes these two Def Jam LPs are enough to warrant LL in the GOAT discussion (especially as The Notorious B.I.G. has two living titles, and artists like Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, and others may be celebrated for just a couple releases). JayQuan says that between ’84 (when L dropped his debut single and ’88), he hit his zenith stride that contends against all.
JayQuan bases the criteria on wordplay, storytelling, and that monstrous delivery. He delves deep into the verses (the ones that have endured through the last 30-plus years, and others). The context is astounding, as anybody who got into Hip-Hop or LL Cool J after the mid-1980s, may fail to realize what visuals were available, and what songs released in what order. From love songs to Battle Rap, ill vocabulary (and understated references to William Shakespeare’s Macbeth) to punchy cadences, this is comprehensive. Moreover, even outside of the thesis, there is just some precise observation about LL’s talent, revolutionary style, and innovation.
For the sake of Hip-Hop Head debate, “Going Back To Cali” released in 1988 through the Less Than Zero soundtrack, though it later re-appeared on 1989’s Walking With A Panther, which is not part of JayQuan’s evidence.
So what say you? There is Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 to 2015, Ice Cube’s 1988-1991, Rakim’s 1986-1989, Biggie and Nas’ 1994-1997 (respectively), Eminem’s 1999-2001, Scarface’s 1991-1994, or Jay Z’s 2001-2004, among others. Does any artist’s 3 (possibly 4) year run rival LL Cool J?
#BonusBeat: LL Cool J’s circa 1987 Soul Train Awards freestyle. He breaks down the voting process:
This reworks “I’m Bad,” the same single that opened Bigger and Deffer.