I had the honor of sitting in on LL Cool Jay’s private listening session in New York City. He was previewing excerpts from his upcoming release of the G.O.A.T II. When super producer Alize Jones from Beatbrokerz Ent. invited me to the session, I was thinking, what’s he trying to do with the hood? You would think that he would have lost some of his street cred being in Hollywood but he represented the evolution of Hip Hop. His demeanor was well versed and professional but his swag was hood. Everybody in the studio was Hip Hop, the vibe was Hip Hop, the love was Hip Hop, LL is Hip Hop.
It was the ultimate atmosphere of what Hip Hop is supposed to look like. It was opportunity in the air. Young producers playing their best tracks for The Greatest of All Time? LL checking for the tastemakers to whip their head back and forth? Where they do that at? I was waiting for Ashton Kushner to pop out and say ‘You just got Punked.’
It wasn’t until he spoke about what he was trying to accomplish with the project did I understand that he is the Greatest of All Time. LL said that he realized New York’s voice was missing on the Hip Hop scene and he wanted to use his celebrity status to reach back to those who didn’t get an opportunity to step in while the South manhandled the airwaves. Only a real MC can understand that no matter where you at in life, if the place that birthed you is not all right, then you are not all right. His sincerity was written all over his face, he knew that it was his duty to revive something that was the cornerstone of his heart. New York Hip Hop. Being the GOAT is about more than just making music.
I remember LL from as far back as the movie, “Krush Groove.” The infamous scene where he bust into the audition with Jam Master Jay, Rick Rubin, Jekyll and Hyde and they told him no more artists. LL motioned to signal, “I’m not trying hear what you saying.” and turned to his hype man, I believe it was B, holding the Boom Box and yelled ‘BOX.’
He was so intense that Jam Master Jay reached for his gun. But LL kept rocking and won them over in a matter of seconds because he spit Hip Hop. That’s the true essence of Hip Hop, digging deep and producing something that you love. LL’s kick in the door mentality is what many have forgotten in Hip Hop.
We sometimes forget on whose shoulders we stand. I saw a young LL in rare footage from Ralph McDaniel’s Video Music Box Archives; his energy was pure and he was genuinely grateful and elated to be not only in the presence of Uncle Ralph but to have finally made it to Video Music Box. He stated, “I know I made it if I’m on Video Music Box.” And he was right. LL has defied what a rapper from Queens is expected to accomplish. Father Time has granted LL a career to be studied. He grew up in front us and became the GOAT. The ultimate test of time I’m sure for him as well is after you cross over do country music, host the Grammy’s, get nominated for daytime Emmys, star in a few movies, can you still rep that mic on your arm?
What I have seen looking in was remnants from a young LL doing what he loved and recognizing that he has grown into a formable man under the umbrella of Hip Hop. He couldn’t shake his love of lyrics and hardcore tracks and surely he can’t live without his radio. The unsung hero on the project was Bimmey Antney, whom LL referred to as the Quarterback.
It was Bimmey’s job to round up New York’s hottest talent and give them some shine next to the GOAT. The love for Bimmey was evident in the shouts he got from every artist that blessed a track. LL was making everybody step up their game up and, consequently, the album was incredible. He had a crazy cut with Movado, a sick joint with Maino, and a record with Murda Mook, “Yeah I’m Nice, Yeah, Yeah, I’m Nice.” I was mad that I couldn’t take the music home with me. That’s Hip Hop, the anticipation of what an artist is going to come with lyrically, how are they going to make the track talk to us. Well, LL gambled on the hood and definitely won.
Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay