I'm Bad
December 19, 2018 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Author born in 1990.

I'm always surprised when people say things like "sure they made ground breaking and classic works once, twice, or a handful of times, but what about the rest?"
posted by bongo_x at 11:54 AM on December 19, 2018 [12 favorites]

There are a fair number of clumsy cheapshots in the intro, which is terrible, yeah.

But the actual breakdown of albums and tracks is pretty solid, appropriately praising the all-time-great stuff, giving props to the indelible pop hits, and even making the case for winners scattered around years after my younger sibs had started calling him "that dude from Living Single and Deep Blue Sea."

Given that he actually turns out to be a fan (to varying degrees as the material warrants it), I wonder if the shots he takes in the opening are him riffing on diss track-style.

Because anyone who is appalled, just appalled, just straight-up clutching pearls to see some dude throw shade and thump his chest at a hip hop legend... I have got some LL Cool J tracks about Kool Moe Dee that I would like to play for you.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:00 PM on December 19, 2018 [11 favorites]

Naima Cochrane's sermon on LL's career is a good antidote, throwing out opinions and excerpted evidence.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 12:10 PM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

He's the type of guy...to do an LL Cool J retrospective.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:11 PM on December 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

If nothing else comes from this, I hope as many people as possible go back and listen to I'm Bad, because holy shit, that holds up. It's mainlining pure badass.

One of these days, I intend to order myself a gold name plate that says, "I WISH YOU WOULD."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:13 PM on December 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

Don't call it a comeback...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:30 PM on December 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

I can offer up only one reasonable criticism of LL. Do the ladies really love the constant and creepy lip licking, James?
posted by Brocktoon at 12:56 PM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Only rhyme quoted in the piece:
American girls are somethin’ to see / I bet Thomas Jefferson would love BET
There's a lot going on there, what with Thomas Jefferson's history.
posted by clawsoon at 1:00 PM on December 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

Trivia: The LL actually stands for Leon Leonwood due to his noted fondness for outdoor pursuits.
posted by Damienmce at 1:06 PM on December 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

A few scattered thoughts:

#1) Box!

#2) The only rapper who has managed to split the street/club or tough/sensitive more successfully is Jay-Z.

#3) The Canibus beef was its own watershed moment.

#4) Sigh. I think I will never get the shift of hip-hop from "fuck you, we don't need your approval, we'll just do our own shit!" to wanting grammys and industry marketers accolades. I blame Jay-Z.

#5) If LL doesn't belong in the Rock and Roll hall of fame, then literally no rappers do.

#6) This article did an OK retrospective, but had a terrible, terrible, terrible intro that basically poisoned any of the good points that the subsequent reviews might have had.
posted by lkc at 1:10 PM on December 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

Location: The basement of Tower Records, 4th and Broadway, NYC
Date: Wikipedia tells me it was around August 27, 1990. The release date of L.L. Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out".

A buddy of mine and I were browsing music when the store DJ put on the album. The room was full of hip-hop heads, and most of us were hearing the album for the first time. It was one of the few occasions I've experienced something like this: When the music started, everyone's head perked up. Soon, complete strangers were making eye contact with each other as if to say "You hearing this shit?".

The room turned into an impromptu party by the third song, everyone bobbing their heads, reacting to the lyrics. I'm sure Tower Records sold a hefty number of copies that day. For sure, it was on regular rotation in my apartment for months.

My favorite quotation about that album was from Chuck D who said this in a contemporary interview:
"When I went down South, the album that I could play that met the medium of everybody in the car -- my sister-in-law, and my other sister-in-law, she's 14, my daughter, my niece, they're like three and four, my wife ... you know who we ended up playing six times? L.L. Mama Said Knock You Out. It was hard enough for me, nice enough for the wife. It's like the hardest pop record ever made. He made a fucking hard album without cursing."
lkc's quote above nails it:

#5) If LL doesn't belong in the Rock and Roll hall of fame, then literally no rappers do.
posted by jeremias at 2:08 PM on December 19, 2018 [18 favorites]

(It may have kind of slipped my mind that I also did a post about LL Cool J in 2013.)

The author makes some good points, in kind of a deliberately-inflammatory way. But 'Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag Getting Crushed By Buildings' might be the best LL deep cut this side of 'Illegal Search.' And I was also surprised to see the Canibus beef mostly handwaved away, especially because it gave us 'The Ripper Strikes Back.'
posted by box at 3:17 PM on December 19, 2018

> I think I will never get the shift of hip-hop from "fuck you, we don't need your approval, we'll just do our own shit!" to wanting grammys and industry marketers accolades.

It's not unique to hip-hop, it's the almost unavoidable evolution any popular art form undergoes within a capitalist society. You have to dig in your heels really damn hard to resist this tide if you experience any degree of popularity and/or financial success; Ian MacKaye is one of the only people I can think of who had the will to pull it off.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:48 PM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

Honestly, who gives half a rip about the stodgy Boomer-ist Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when LL not only has a Kehinde Wiley portrait but one that's hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. A dazzling, massive portrait--I've seen it, it has to be 10' x 10'--hanging in the same gallery as the portraits of every US president and other American luminaries.

Well done, LL. You don't need any more validation than that.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 4:24 PM on December 19, 2018 [12 favorites]

I wish the author had gone all out and reviewed not just his music output but his movie and tv as well. 2nd best actor on the show he is on (NCISLA), but only because I have a soft spot for Eric Christian Olsen for his villainy in Not Another Teen Movie and 'no worries? some worries' on Community.

Think about it though: He's been a tv actor for 10 seasons, which takes him from Radio to Mr Smith, album wise.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:51 AM on December 20, 2018

Ladies Love Cool James.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:19 PM on December 22, 2018

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