Revisiting one of Hip Hop's earliest superstars.
"I'm not trying to be new school and I'm not old school - I'm classic. There's a lot of new cars and there's a lot of old cars, but I'm just classic in doing what I do." – LL Cool J
LL Cool J (Ladies Love Cool James), known to his mother as James Todd Smith, was living in his grandparent's basement in Queens in 1984; he had already been rapping, according to his autobiography, since 1978. His grandfather, a Jazz saxophonist, recognized his talent early on and bought Smith recording, mixing and DJ gear. Also in 1984, while still in high school at the age of 16, he created some demo tapes and sent them to various record companies in New York City, including a brand-new one founded by an NYU student, Rick Rubin, called Def Jam.
The ladies love cool James: LL Cool J, 1987. Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Def Jam/UMG.
Rubin immediately saw the potential in Smith and they recorded and released a 12" single, "I Need A Beat". It was an instant success, and led to the recording of Smith's debut album, Radio, which was also the first album ever released by Def Jam. It also became an immediate hit, going gold months after it's release, and is considered a cornerstone of the Hip Hop recorded legacy. It's spare, minimalist production, braggadocio, intense delivery and often times misogynistic character studies created a template many would follow.
The hits, they say, just kept coming until the rise of the Southern California Death Row sound in the early 1990's. Along the way, he appeared on American Bandstand (the first rapper to do so), received a Grammy award in 1991 and successfully sustained a career as a Hip Hop artist, being the first to score two, three and four platinum albums in a row. He spends a great deal of his time in California these days as an actor and with his family, being married to his wife Simone since 1995, and they have four children. Or, as Halle Berry and Natalie Desselle said in the film B.A.P.S. as they accosted him in a cameo appearance, "He even married his baby's mama."
This show is dedicated to a woman who is celebrating her 42nd birthday on June 24th: Coral Mallow .
Our tracks this week: Title, Year, Source
1. Rock the Bells, 1985, Radio
2. Big Ole Butt, 1989, Walking With A Panther
3. The Bristol Hotel, 1987, Bigger And Deffer
4. Around The Way Girl, 1990, Mama Said Knock You Out
5. I'm That Type Of Guy, 1989, Walking With A Panther
6. I Need A Beat, 1984, original 12" A-side•
7. Going Back To Cali, 1987, Less Than Zero soundtrack
8. I Can't Live Without My Radio, 1985, Radio
9. Mama Said Knock You Out, 1990, Mama Said Knock You Out
10. Go Cut Creator Go, 1987, Bigger And Deffer
11. I Need Love, 1987, Bigger And Deffer
12. Cheesy Rat Blues, 1990, Mama Said Knock You Out
13. Jack The Ripper, 1987, "Going Back to Cali" 12" single B-side•
*denotes ripped to digital from vinyl. Some surface noise may be apparent.
Love to you all.
Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
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