Today in Hip Hop History: January 14
Today marks the birthdays of two significant and influential emcees during the Golden Age of hip hop: LL Cool J and Slick Rick.
LL Cool J
James Todd Smith, or LL Cool J, was born on January 14th, 1968 in Bay Shore, New York. His rapper name is an abbreviation for the phrase “Ladies Love Cool James.” The rapper and actor has been involved in music and entertainment since 1984.
LL Cool J is famous for his early cross-sensational hits “I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” Mama Said Knock You Out” and “I Need Love,” among several others. His early tracks typically consisted of “bboy anthems;” they emphasized beat breaks, scratching, samples and downbeats. The rapper is one of the best selling Golden Age rappers and a pioneer in the commercial rap game.
Additionally, LL Cool J has made a big name for himself with his acting career; starring in such films as S.W.A.T., Deep Blue Sea, Charlie’s Angels and even playing the snake in Anaconda.
Ricky Walters, or Slick Rick, was born on January 14th, 1965 in London, England. Hip Hop’s Greatest Storyteller has his beginnings in the early 80’s, recording classics “La Di Da Di” and “Children’s Story,” both of which have influenced numerous songs and rappers since their conceptions.
His debut album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, is a bonafide Golden Age hip hop classic. The album defines the era in its early and underrepresented peak.
Unfortunately, Slick Rick could never achieve the same success again. Due to his incarceration and struggle with immigration services, among other factors, he never repeated the success nor dope-ness of his debut.
Regardless, Slick Rick, despite not being American, is one of the greatest and most influential emcees of his era. The number of artists that have sampled his music is off the charts.
So, it is both of these influential artists’ birthday, but the real question is, who wins out as the better Golden Age emcee?