Thursday night, veteran rhymesmith and mic controller LL Cool J leads the charge of hip-hop’s all time greats, including Ice Cube, Public Enemy and De La Soul, for a night of rap royalty at Roseland Ballroom. While Mr. Cool James has given us over 25 years of undisputed rap classics, he’s also been fearless in terms of the topics he’s been willing to explore on record. While not necessarily good or bad things, they’re relegated to a puzzling category of memorable “LL Things.” In advance of the show, we revisit LL’s most bizarre moments.
“I’m So Bad I Can…” wait, what?
LL’s been delightfully braggadocios his entire career. Since he was “only 18 making more than your dad,” nobody’s ever faulted him for being full of himself and hard as hell. Amidst his boasts, however, is the baffling line on “Clap Your Hands” where he says “I’m so bad, I can suck my own dick.” It’s odd to imagine some night in Queens where everything’s going on as usual and suddenly you hear “Hey guys, check this out!” While it has befuddled rap listeners for years, the line is likely explainable from LL’s rumored 1980s infatuation with pornography. Considering his efforts to be looked at as rap’s Ron Jeremy, LL perhaps looked to follow in “The Hedgehog’s” legacy by mimicking Jeremy’s gift of auto-fellatio.
A Gripping Cereal-Centric Street Narrative
LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out is rightfully heralded as both a classic album and a highlight from a career with no shortage of highlights. But while the story of the record’s inspiration, the immortal video for the title track and the infectious crossover success of “Around the Way Girl” are its most discussed elements, the record also contained a storytelling track called “Milky Cereal,” based around the names of different breakfast foods. In it he makes some bold choices, like giving voice to a box of Hungry Jack in a way that makes it sound like Mike Tyson
“Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag Being Crushed by Buildings”
From the start, LL Cool J’s always been hard as hell. He’s bad, walks with panthers and even has a mother figure who encourage he render you unconscious. Yet, the ’90s were such a time for celebrating ruggedness in hip-hop, that LL somehow still felt compelled to toughen up his image. So, for his 14 Shots to the Dome album, he returned looking harder than ever, sipping a 40 and morphing into a powder-keg of testosterone. What resulted is the most head-scratching metaphor for sex ever committed to a rap record. “Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag Being Crushed By Buildings” was the lead single from 14 Shots and whether this was Cool J at his creative peak (he DOES hide the names of 30 other MCs in his verses) or low-point (the track’s name/hook) is still debated today.
LL Cool Genetically Modified Shark
In the ’90s, there was no cooler way for your motion picture to reach a hip, young audience than having a celebrated and respected rap star explain the film’s entire plot in a song. Will Smith did it for Men in Black and Wild Wild West, KRS-ONE did it for I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, MC Hammer did it for The Addams Family. So, of course, LL Cool J had to have a go at it with “Deepest Bluest (Shark Fin).” From the film Deep Blue Sea that chronicles the issues with using shark DNA to cure altz-seimers, LL Cool J raps as a genetically modified shark with a verses so potent, they put his M.O.N.S.T.A.R.S. anthem from the Space Jam soundtrack to shame!
Accidental Racist, Brad Paisley and The Pope
A lot has been written about LL Cool J and Brad Paisley’s controversial collaboration “Accidental Racist,” so here’s some more. Yes, Cool J shouts-out Robert E. Lee immediately before thanking Abraham Lincoln, says he’ll forget slavery if a blind-eye is given to his jewelry and makes one bafflingly accidentally racist line after another. But that’s par for the course in LL Weird J’s 2013, the year of his first his first non-Def Jam album, Authentic. The album finds Cool J teaming up with Paisley a second time for the syrupy “Live For You,” another weird stab at a different audience that’s overshadowed almost completely by the batshit closing track “We’re the Greatest.” A modern Cool J and Eddie Van Halen collaboration (which is a fun idea), it’s a jarring shift from a largely adult contemporary rap record with random stray lines like “I got a lot of crazy (crazy) on my mind / Like what’s the real reason that the Pope resigned?” whose ideas are immediately dropped so he can go back to talking about how cool it is to be recording with Eddie Van Halen.