Today’s Rap Flashback features LL Cool J’s debut album, Radio – released on this day in 1985. Only 17 year old at the time, LL Cool J’s journey as Hip Hop’s first GOAT began with this record, which doubles as Def Jam Recordings’ first full length release. Rick Rubin’s trademark heavy drum based minimalist production acts as the backdrop for LL’s hard hitting, B-Boy delivery and boastful lyrics. Though not overtly ‘gangsta’ as the term would later be known, much of LL’s lyrical content did reflect the rough, hustle and bustle nature of inner-city, urban culture at the time.
Hardcore rhyming on “I Can’t Live Without My Radio”, “Rock The Bells”, and “I Need a Beat” were balanced by some of LL’s early relationship fueled content on tracks like “I Can Give You More” and “Dear Yvette”. Simply put, Radio launched the career of one of Hip Hop’s most prominent and tenured emcees. The record went gold 5 months after its release and would be certified platinum in 1989. Additionally, though difficult to conceptualize today given the album is over 30 years old, Radio helped usher in a then ‘new school’ of rap music which would influence the likes of Schooly D., Boogie Down Productions, and Public Enemy. Accordingly, acts like The Sugarhill Gang and Kurtis Blow were then deemed ‘old school.’ Radio‘s new sound, mass appeal, and commercial success helped foster a wider, multi-racial audience for Hip Hop, further elevating not just LL Cool J’s national prominence, but also that of the entire genre and culture.
Hip Hop would not have become the global phenomenon that it is without LL’s influence. With that in mind, major salutes go out to LL Cool J on the anniversary of the release of his debut album. It may be over three decades later, but I, for one, still can’t live without my (digital) radio.
My story is rough, my neighborhood is tough
But I still sport gold, and I’m out to crush
My name is Cool J, I devastate the show
But I couldn’t survive without my radio
Terrorizingmy neighbors with the heavy bass
I keep the suckas in fear by the look on my face
My radio’s bad from the Boulevard
I’m a hip-hop gangster and my name is Todd