In 2000, L.L. Cool J proclaimed he was the Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T.) in rap music. After recording 12 CDs and tons of hits since his debut disc, Radio, in 1985, it’s certainly now hard to dispute that assertion.
But despite L.L.’s personal boasting, he’s still rarely mentioned in public discussions about the best rappers of all time. Discussions typically include rappers like Rakim, The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Eminem and Jay Z, but unfortunately neglect L.L. Cool J.
Here’s my list of Top 10 songs by L.L. Cool J which should give some credence to his claim 10 years ago of being the GOAT in rap.
10). Around The Way Girl (1990).
It was truly a different era in rap when he dropped this hit record. L.L. Cool J slows his flow a bit and speaks into the ears of his preferred type of woman. “I want a girl with extensions in her hair,” L.L. says. “Bamboo earrings, at least two pair. A Fendi bag and a bad attitude.”
9). Hip-Hop (1995).
Most rap fans probably slept on this must-hear track off L.L.’s sixth album, Mr. Smith. The Queens, N.Y. rapper pays tribute to the art form in a genuine “letter,” noting how it changed his life. From The Sugar Hill Gang to the Notorious B.I.G., L vividly reflects on artists and the entire hip-hop culture.
8). The Doo Wop (1987).
L.L. Cool J has always been a good storyteller. On “The Doo Wop,” he lays down an entertaining tale on top of a doo-wop groove. While still filled with bravado, the story, which is actually a dream, shows L had the guts to experiment within his music even early on in his rap career.
7). Hey Lover (1995).
By the mid-’90s, some fans, including myself, thought L.L.’s reign in rap was over. However, he dispelled that notion with the release of Mr. Smith, which featured hot joints like “Doin’ It,” “Loungin'” and “Hey Lover.” The smooth-talker L’s at his best on this one trying to win a woman’s heart.
6). I Shot Ya (remix) (1995).
L.L. Cool J’s stunning verse made me realize he had a lot more quality lyrics left in the tank. “I thought I conquered the whole world/Crushed Moe Dee, Hammer, and Ice-T’s girl,” L spits. Guests Keith Murray, Prodigy, Fat Joe and Foxy Brown make the song bang even harder.
5). You’ll Rock (1985).
Since much of L’s early work in the ’80s like “Rock The Bells,” “Dangerous” and “I Need A Beat” was on point, it’s now hard to single out one. But the hungry L.L. Cool J’s just so relentless on “You’ll Rock” and flows comfortably over D.J. Cut Creator’s scratches and producer Rick Rubin’s raw track.
4). Jack The Ripper (1987).
One of the best beefs in rap history featured L.L. Cool J vs. Kool Moe Dee. “Jack The Ripper” is L’s lyrical assault against the hip-hop pioneer for his “How Ya Like Me Know.” After releasing this classic diss song, L.L. establishes himself as one of the fiercest battlers ever in rap music.
3). I Need Love (1987).
L.L. Cool J’s the king of rap ballads. Ever since “I Want You” and “I Can Give You More” on his debut album, L.L. religiously integrated charming love stories on his albums. The timeless “I Need Love” shows rap artists don’t always have to talk tough on the mic for a song to be a huge success.
2). I’m Bad (1987).
If not the best, L.L. Cool J knew he was near the top of the list as the baddest rapper on the planet. With superhero Batman’s theme music playing in the background, L.L. says seemingly whatever comes to mind to demonstrate his greatness. “I’m Bad” is certainly L’s defining arrival on the music scene.
1). I Can’t Live Without My Radio (1985).
Before Walkmans, CD players and iPods, there was the trusty boom box radio. “Walking down the street, to the hardcore beat,” L rhymes. My top L.L. Cool J song of all time “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” essentially represents an entire period of hip-hop for older fans to remember.
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