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Hip Hop Classic of the Month: LL Cool J – “Mr. Smith”

LL Cool J Mr SmithBy Q The Question
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Even though he held the rap game down longer than anyone else who came out of New York, LL Cool J always seems to get slighted. He is best known for the songs for the ladies, but LL makes classics. LL Cool J was at his best when he came back with Mr. Smith after a two-year hiatus.

Releasing his album in 1995, New York hip hop as a whole was in comeback mode. With the scene coming back, all that was missing was LL Cool J. Knowing what the game was looking for LL Cool J delivered a raw, rap album with the commercial appeal he made himself known for.

LL Cool J is one of the best lyricists in the game because he is versatile. While LL Cool J can do almost any form of rap, he is at his best when he is making songs for the ladies and also when he makes those songs about being a player. The mistake of his previous album was too much hardcore, which LL Cool J corrected.

Releasing Mr. Smith in November of 1995, LL Cool J kept the hardcore going with “I Shot Ya,” featuring Keith Murray, and the official remix that had Mobb Deep, Fat Joe, and Foxy Brown on the track along with Keith Murray again. “I Shot Ya” got the streets behind LL again, because he kept it straight lyrical on the track, going at his enemies, even Kool Moe Dee. But, LL Cool J did not forget about his devoted commercial fan base, so he delivered “Hey Lover” with Boyz II Men and that remains a classic record.

Hip hop was transitioning in 1995, as this was the year after Ready to Die, the year of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, and the year before Reasonable Doubt. All three of those albums helped to launch Mafioso rap of the 1990s that would eventually become the “Shiny Suit” era. But, those three albums, along with a few other debut albums were all considered 90s classics, but lost in the mix is Mr. Smith, the most-balanced album out of all of them.

LL Cool J was the veteran who asserted himself as the leader of the resurgent New York hip hop scene that was full of new stars. From the singles to the order in which the songs flowed on the album, LL Cool J delivered one of hip hop’s all-time classics with Mr. Smith. This is one album that deserves more shine, especially when talking about classic 90s albums, as the double platinum sales even helped keep struggling Def Jam afloat.

Watch “I Shot Ya” by LL Cool J ft. Keith Murray, Mobb Deep, Fat Joe, and Foxy Brown

Watch “Hey Lover” by LL Cool J ft. Boyz II Men below:

Watch “Doin’ It” by LL Cool J ft. LeShaun below:

Watch “Loungin'” by LL Cool J ft. Total below:

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