On this day, November 18, in hip-hop history…
1985: Recorded when he was a mere 17 years old, LL Cool J’s Radio is a true landmark in the history of hip-hop. As the first full-length album released on the legendary hip-hop label Def Jam, Radio made an indelible mark on rap music for not only the historic nature of its release but the powerful quality of the music.
“Reduced by Rick Rubin” as the back cover credits the celebrated superproducer, Radio features Rubin’s aggressive, skeletal production—at times, merely amped up beat-boxing and DJ scratching—and LL’s brash, confident rhymes; both elements come together to create an album that punches the listener straight in the gut. Classic songs such as “Rock The Bells,” “I Need A Beat” and “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” are cocksure blasts of teenaged energy transformed into LL’s vicious battle rhymes.
Radio remains an artistic and commercial triumph 28 years after its initial release. While Rubin’s minimalist production approach might feel foreign to modern listeners, the stripped down beats were state-of-the-art beat-making upon the album’s release, and LL’s hyper-aggressive rhyming style made him an instant star in hip-hop. Meanwhile, the album would connect with listeners going on to be certified platinum by 1989 and launching not only LL Cool J’s long-running career but helping bolster the status of Def Jam to the forefront of hip-hop. Radio remains one of the most essential hip-hop albums of all-time.