Bigger and Deffer

Bigger and Deffer

LL Cool J’s sophomore breakthrough, Bigger and Deffer, proved him to be the most charismatic and versatile MC of his generation. The chest-puffing single “I’m Bad” was rap at its most vicious, the tender follow-up “I Need Love” was rap at its most vulnerable, and the delirious “My Rhyme Ain’t Done” was rap at its most bugged-out. Delivered by a six-foot-tall sex symbol who proclaimed himself nothing short of “the baddest rapper in the history of rap itself,” Bigger and Deffer exploded rapidly, becoming the first million-selling rap album by a solo MC. Bigger and Deffer was released in 1987, when the 19-year-old LL Cool J was still living with his grandmother—and still hungry as a shark. Def Jam co-founder and in-house producer Rick Rubin, who’d guided LL’s debut, was too busy working on his ill-fated film debut to handle the follow-up. So Rubin’s skeletal beats were replaced with more fleshed-out compositions, courtesy of the L.A. Posse. But the behind-the-scenes creative change didn’t smooth down Cool J’s rough edges. He’d promised to make “hard rock jams for hard rock fans,” and his headbanging, industrial-strength bluster remains at full strength on songs like “Get Down,” “Ahh, Let’s Get Ill,” and the mosh-worthy, rap-rock stunner “Go Cut Creator Go.” And “I’m Bad,” which flips the theme to the TV cop show S.W.A.T., is probably the finest piece of rap braggadocio of the 1980s, with Cool J shouting, “I’m the pinnacle, that means I reign supreme/And I’m notorious, I’ll crush you like a jellybean.” The album’s most controversial song, “I Need Love,” would prove to be its most prescient. The tender, melodic confessional stood in sharp contrast to Cool J’s venomous rhymes—and became rap’s first hit ballad. At the time, betrayed fans threw coins at the man whose name has “Ladies Love” right in the front. But the joke was on them, jack: “I Need Love” would roar up the charts, paving the way for future sensitive hip-hop smashes like Method Man and Mary J. Blige’s “I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need to Get By” and Drake’s “Best I Ever Had.” More importantly, “I Need Love” would solidify LL Cool J’s pioneering balance of antagonist and heartthrob—an approach that would be emulated down the road by the likes of 2Pac and 50 Cent and more. Bigger and Deffer isn’t just a rip-roaring breakthrough; the album also marks a landmark moment for hip-hop’s crossover appeal.

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