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LL Cool J
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  • Walking With A Panther


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    LL Cool J

    bigger and deffer radio walking with a panther

    Radio 7 ( 1985 )
    I Can't Live Without My Radio / You Can't Dance / Dear Yvette / I Can Give You More / Dangerous / Untitled / Rock The Bells / I Need A Beat / That's A Lie / You'll Rock / I Want You

    'Reduced by Rick Rubin' it says on the back, an utterly apt decription of this old-school hip-hop landmark. The first release on 'Def Jam' records, it's historical importance is clearly obvious. Launching not only Dej Jam but one of the longest running careers for an MC ever, 'Radio' has a lot of importance to live upto. LL Cool J was only 17 at the time, hailing from Queens, New York. His claim of not being able to live without his radio seems quaint these days, where an I-Pod might be placed in that line instead. Before we get to the beats and the raps though, LL had a typically 'rap' childhood, his parents had a violent relationship. His mother left when LL was only four. His father shot his mother one night in 1972, also getting his grandfather in the stomach. LL found hip hop and rapping as a way of escaping his emotional problems. LL dropped out of high school to record the 'Radio' album for Def Jam after a demo tape had been noticed by a member of The Beastie Boys. The sound we have here is very much of the day, old-school scratching, with heavy and sparse beats. Not much in the way of sampling. LL himself does well though, at this stage in his career he's got an aggressive approach to the mic, without too much self-bravado or hitting on whore's and niggas lyrically.

    The lead track is a minor classic, but second song 'You Can't Dance' sounds lyrically clumsy, excerpt follows.... Take my advice, don't move! You'll never get the knack. If I danced like you I'd sneak out the party and wouldn't be coming back. On the floor you're a dinosaur, yeah boy, that's how you move. You look like Ralph Cramden(?) or a Donald Duck cartoon. You can't dance! On and on it goes. Better is one of the few rock/rap crossover's here. 'Rock The Bells' indeed has bells and whistles musically. Oh, it's a long way away from Public Enemy of half a decade later, but more effort has been put into this. There's a bass groove going on with the drums, the drums are deep in the bass register. LL has been mixed down slightly, his speedy rhymes more difficult to pick out, yet you actually want to. Bam, BAM. It's good! Heavy beats return for 'That's A Lie', another successful track. There's a brief untitled track in the center of the album, an early rap skit, no less. 'You'll Rock' picks up from Run DMC and the entire album picks up from Run DMC but it's Run DMC with half the wit or charm. LL Cool J himself proves to be a good rapper, he's got an approach enough to stand out and be the star of the show, but Run DMC were streets ahead of this kind of stuff, even back in 1985. There's not much filler on the LP however, so I give this a cautious thumbs up, anyway.

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    top of page Bigger And Deffer ( 1987 )
    I'm Bad / Kanday / Get Down / The Bristol Hotel / My Rhyme Ain't Done / .357 Break It on Down / Go Cut Creator Go / The Breakthrough / I Need Love / Ahh, Let's Get Ill / The Do Wop / On the Ill Tip

    LL Cool J is regarded as one of the most popular rap artists of all-time and this was the album that became his commercial breakthrough. 'I Need Love' indeed even pioneered that 'loved' song form, the rap pop crossover ballad. 'Bigger And Deffer' deserves its reputation though as one of the early rap classic LPs. LL Cool J's ego is woven into the tunes this time out, he spells out how great he is and it works. He also includes some humorous raps, some hard hitting raps and the aforementioned rap ballad. It's a great LP to listen to as there is more than enough variety here even for the non-rap addict. 'I'm Bad' was a hit in the US and is a great piece of rapping, no question. It takes the bragging and bravado to a new level. This was the same year that Michael Jackson dropped his 'Bad' LP and the difference between the old ( Jackson ) and the new ( LL Cool J ) was extremely pronounced. 'Radio' had its moments, but LL has stepped up his game for this, the sophomore album. A particular favourite verse of mine? Never retire or put my mike on the shelf / The baddest rapper in the history of rap itself / Not bitter or mad just provin' I'm bad / You want a hit give me a hour plus a pen and a pad. Cool. Something like 'Kanday' is owned by LL. The beats are fairly standard and by route, LL tries to compete with the likes of Eric B And Rakim and whilst he has a different style and flow, he can live with him. You know, even if LL ain't in the same class as Rakim, he can still live with him. 'Get Down' is another rap showcase with hard hitting rhymes and much attitude. I like it. 'Go LL, Go LL.'

    'My Rhyme Aint Done' injects some needed humour into proceedings, rhyming about cartoon characters, yet with the rap seemingly having the same attitude as everything else here. It's funny. Oh, and of course you wanted a really clever rock/rap crossover, didn't you? Yeah, LL has one of the best, 'Go Cut Creator Cut', a scratch special weaving in a Chuck Berry sample to great effect. Inevitably though, 'I Need Love' shines on the LP. Even though it pioneered much of the ( crap ) rap pop crossover that would pollute the eardrums in the nineties, this particular effort comes across as timeless, repeat playable and sincere. 'The Do Wop'? A hip-hop / doo wop crossover? Well, what else? A strong, thoroughly enjoyable album this, slightly dated in places but then again, it's over twenty years old now and people are still listening to it.

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    top of page Walking With A Panther ( 1989 )
    Droppin' Em / Smokin' Dopin' / Fast Peg / Clap Your Hands / Nitro / You're My Heart / I'm That Type of Guy / Why Do You Think They Call It Dope? / It Gets No Rougher / Big Ole Butt / One Shot At Love / 1-900 LL Cool J / Two Different Worlds / Jealous / Jingling Baby / Def Jam in the Motherla

    'Droppin' Em' opens LL Cool J's third LP in fine old-skool stlye, hugely funky beats and funny lyrics - turn this up and the bass rattles your speakers and that's what we want, isn't it? It's impressive considering that 'Walking With A Panther' was 80% produced by LL himself - we forget these days how important LL Cool J was back in the 80s. Well, by 1989 he was starting to slip behind the likes of Public Enemy and Eric B And Rakim, but no matter, he was still one of the big names of rap. Twenty Tracks inevitably is too many and 'Big Ole Butt' and several other tunes here invented lots that was not too pleasant about 90s rap, but we forgive him. We even forgive him the rap love ballads. Well, almost. We forgive him because the likes of 'Droppin' Em' and 'Clap Your Hands' are just so heavy and chilled and absolutely brilliant old-school rap. LL never had the best rhymes, the best flow but he had some good tunes and he had a presence. He clearly had something because nobody had been around selling rap records as long as LL Cool J.

    The first rap-ballad 'You're In My Heart' makes you forget what album you're listening to and really seems to drag, although 'I'm That Type Of Guy' really gets your attention arriving straight after. 'I'm That Type Of Guy' also seems to drag however and at this stage 'Walking With A Panther' doesn't seem to be as good as the first two LL Cool J albums. 'Why Do You Think They Call It Dope' is terrific though and a whole album of stuff like this would have been a classic. 'Two Different Worlds' is the worst offender of the weak material, a terribly bloated 80s synth sound and wailing female backing vocals for this particular rap ballad. Familiar samples enrich 'Jingling Baby' and it was this kind of material we wanted to hear. Credit where credit is due though, 'Walking With A Panther' was another commercial success for LL Cool J and actually, despite it's mixed critical reception both then and now is more influential, for better or worse, than many like to give LL credit for.

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    top of page this page last updated 26/04/09


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