LL Cool J Weighs In On Why Some GOAT Rapper Lists Snub Him (Video)
Hip-Hop loves a list, and that was especially true in 2019. In late summer, a series of fan-generated Top 50 MCs lists became a viral fad, with everybody from rappers to athletes and celebrities participating on social media, and evoking debate and discourse. At the same time, many interview guests are increasingly asked to list their GOATs, whether MC, producer, or otherwise
At times, it can feel like LL Cool J, the artist who titled his chart-topping eighth album, G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time), gets snubbed by low rankings or outright omissions on these subjective lists. Although “Iron” Mike Tyson placed him at #6, not all are so generous. Even so, a #6 could be argued as too low. In a 35-year-career, LL Cool went from winning Grammy Awards to hosting the affair. He transformed from winning over the masses with 1985’s Radio to owning and programming a radio station, Sirius XM’s Rock The Bells. James Todd Smith has won battles, made hardcore Hip-Hop hits, and pivoted to acting, philanthropy, and more.
Appearing recently on Sway In The Morning, show producer Rich Nice brought up the slights many lists have against LL. At the 30:00 mark, Nice tells the guest, “Your name is [often] not mentioned in this Top 5 conversation. And I feel like it’s supposed to be because of the things we’ve talked about [in this interview]: to have balance [in your catalog], to never run from a battle, to always win your battles, to have a great stage show, to have [a media career], all of these things…”
LL Cool J smiles, and interjects, “See, a lot of the artists that get mentioned in that conversation, the timing of their career coincides with the emergence of the Internet. Right? Then, their mythology gets spread throughout the Internet. So it has a lot to do with that. I’ll give you an example: even a guy like Michael Jordan, his sneakers went crazy on the Internet, right? But his [basketball playing] career kinda tapered off [online]. He’s not quite an Internet sensation when it comes to the highlights and stuff as he was on an ESPN or [television]. Whereas, a Lebron [James] is an Internet sensation. Kobe [Bryant] is even bigger on the Internet than Mike. So I think a lot of this is about timing.”
He continues, “See, nowadays, people put a lot of value on lyrical content on every song, and street narratives, and stuff like that. They don’t understand the decisions that we had to make, creatively, back then. Like, when I started making records, they didn’t play Rap music [on radio] in the daytime. So you’re talking to somebody who literally could only think about getting his music played at night, maybe on the weekend. So in order to be played during the day, you had to have a certain sound. You had to have a certain melody. So I think the creative decisions that I had to make affect how people perceive me because there are a lot of younger and newer fans who only know my R&B or Pop records [that] were commercial hits. They don’t understand my mythology or my journey, and me being an MC, my battling, my rhyming, and all of that, because those records weren’t commercial.”
LL Cool J also says that his versatility and appeal with women are factors. “I’ve never focused on always being super-rapping. Like sometimes I just do sh*t ’cause it’s silly and funny, and it makes me laugh, and that’s it. And that’s what I’m measuring it by. So I’m a little different in that regard. And I think that that really affects [my legacy]. If I only did records like ‘Ill Bomb’ (embedded below) all the time, and if I only really focused in that zone [it would be different]. Because remember, it’s real male-oriented, really male-dominated, right? So as soon as you make a record and the dude is in the car, and his girl says, ‘Oh, I like that sh*t! Turn it up,’ your chances of being in that conversation just went about 10% lower. Then, when you make another hit, and she says, ‘Oh! I like that one too,’ now your chances went even lower. ‘F*ck that dude!’ [Laughs] ‘He’s a bottom 5, mothaf*cka!”
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#BonusBeat: LL Cool J’s “Ill Bomb,” produced by DJ Scratch: