A big problem with hip-hop today is that the younger generation of fans seems to forget those artists that were truly important to the genre. Knowing your history is a must so take this writing not only as homage to LL Cool J but as a serious history lesson. LL Cool J is not only the greatest of all time, he’s much more than that. He’s a pioneer, a trailblazer, a genius. Had LL never been a part of hip-hop culture, its entire landscape would have been completely different, a hip-hop butterfly effect. There is no human being who has ever written a rhyme that hasn’t been influenced by LL Cool J, whether directly or indirectly. An aspiring MC jotting down who has never heard of LL Cool J is going to be influenced by him. There is nothing related to hip-hop that isn’t the spawn of something LL Cool J once did. There are six degrees of separation between LL Cool J and everything that has ever taken place in hip-hop and if you ask me that’s worth more than any Maybach, Audemars Piguet watch, or private jet. Even the most prolific and highly lauded MC’s in hip-hop’s history cannot hold a candle to LL’s influence and that includes Biggie, Tupac, Jay-Z, Nas, and Eminem. It’s truly difficult to put LL’s influence into words but picture this. His first album, the platinum selling Radio, was released in 1985 when he was 16 years old. Now, there was some hip-hop available, there were a few guys doing it but there wasn’t a huge well of inspiration to draw from. It’s not that there wasn’t talent out there; there just weren’t many successful solo hip-hop artists yet. Consider this information. The only conclusion to be drawn is that while LL Cool J didn’t invent the genre, he did shape the art form to put it on the path to what it is today. His album was lyrically and musically light years ahead of anything that had been released. LL’s genius is horrendously underrated when all of this is taken into consideration. That was the tip of the iceberg as far as LL’s impact on hip-hop goes. Look at the cover of his second album Bigger and Deffer. Yup, that’s him standing on a foreign car wearing fly sneakers and gold ropes. LL Cool J brought street style to hip-hop, styles he had no doubt seen personally on guys like Rich Porter, AZ, and Kevin Chiles, all the street superstars your favorite artists are still rapping about in 2014. LL was getting it from the source, not a style that had been passed down through thousands of people and watered down until it was a shell of its former self. LL was one of the first to battle and was never scared to step in the ring whether it was Ice-T or Kool Moe Dee and he always won. How many songs have you heard in your life that were dedicated to the ladies? You can thank LL for that. “I Need Love”, enough said. LL Cool J was even the first rapper to get to the top and fall off of his game a little. That might not seem impressive but what is impressive is the fact that he came back with one of the hottest and most classic albums ever with Mama Said Knock You Out. The title track put the nail in the coffin of anybody who had something to say and it earned LL a Grammy as well. How many rappers have been able to transition from one era of hip-hop into another not only reinventing themselves but once again sitting atop the game? LL did it flawlessly with the classic Mr. Smith. It was platinum album after platinum album for James Todd Smith as he made classic hip-hop music, expanded the hip-hop audience, became the epitome of the rapper slash actor, never backed down from a battle, got rich as hell, and lived as a legend through it all. No rapper ever has had the impact and influence on the culture that LL has had and that’s undeniable. The purpose of this piece wasn’t to try and get you to be an LL Cool J fan, it was to make you realize that you are an LL Cool J fan whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not.