Radio, Ll Cool J’s debut album is 36 years old

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On that same date in 1985, James Todd Smith, better known as LL was only 17 when he released his debut album Radio , an exuberant celebration of frenzied beats and a B-boy attitude that has launched not only hip-hop’s longest career, but Rick Rubin’s Def Jam label as well . 

A stripped and dry rap

In style, Cool J chose a stripped-down rap. The instrumentation comes down to an amplified rhythm machine, punctuated by the scratches of the DJ. Sometimes there are short samples, but they do nothing other than accentuate a slow rhythm. The result is rap in its most skeletal form, with a street aggressiveness that perfectly matches LL’s teenage energy. Even the two ballads hardly sound like such, since they are carried by the same slamming rhythms. Although they may seem a bit boxy to modern ears, LLset new standards for the MCs of the day; his clever narratives and outrageous but playful boasting are as poetic as ever. Although LL himself later switched to more complex rhymes, it wasn’t really necessary on such a loud, adrenaline-pumping record. Radio witnessed both a widening of the artistic possibilities of rap and for the time, a commercial success that helped attract a new multiracial audience to this music. 

The album of superlatives

I Need A Beat, the track that won Cool J a contract with Def Jam was written and recorded when he was just 15, making him not only Def Jam’s first solo artist, but also the youngest. On the album, songs like I Can’t Live Without My Radio and Rock The Bells dominated the airwaves and influenced other artists of the era with their content and punchy flow.

Primarily produced by Rick Rubin, with the exception of the track  I Need A Beat, which was produced by DJ Jazzy Jay, Radio was a pivotal LP not only for LL and Def Jam, but also in a booming hip-hop landscape. evolution that had just seen the rapid decline of b-boying and jams in the parks, against a moral background plagued by crack. A tribute to Cool J, Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons, Jazzy Jay and all the Def Jam members of the time who helped create this timeless classic!

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