LL Cool J ~ Bigger and Deffer (1987)

Posted on May 5, 2013

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By the year 1986, 18-year-old James Todd Smith, a.k.a. LL Cool J, was running full throttle career-wise. The Queens phenom had dropped a classic, platinum-selling debut (1985’s Radio), helped build tiny Def Jam Records into a respected label, and became one of rap’s biggest stars. At the time, some wondered if Cool J’s success was a fluke, and if he’d fall as quickly as he’d risen. In 1987, Mr. Smith responded to these queries with a mega bomb that made him the biggest star in Hip Hop: his sophomore album Bigger and Deffer.

Bigger and Deffer shows the personality traits that would make LL Cool J a legend: the braggart, the battler, the lover and the crowd mover, with a few extra quirks thrown in for good measure. The first cut “I’m Bad” perfectly melds the braggart with the battler; with LL using a creeping funk track to spit some of the cockiest lines in rap history, while the cops try to pinch him for being so murderous with a mic. On “The Breakthrough”, Ladies Love Cool James gives one of the most majestic performances in his career. In the space of four minutes, LL throws subliminal bolos at Queens rival MC Shan, who’d dissed LL on his 1985 track “Beat Biter”, declares himself harder than Napoleon, Julius Caesar and Adolf Hitler, and flows without a single pause, all over the jaw-breaking drums from Isaac Hayes’ blaxploitation classic “The Breakthrough”. The crowd mover emerges on two jarring and wondrous numbers: “Get Down” and “Go Cut Creator Go”. On “Get Down”, Cool J spits white-hot flames over thundering drums and the guitar line from Isaac Hayes’ “Theme From Shaft”; and on “Go Cut Creator Go”, L pays tribute to his DJ Cut Creator over a molten rock track supplemented with a sample of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”, and topped off by blistering scratching from Cut Creator, who gets buck on the wheels at LL’s urging. “.357 – Break It On Down” revives the low bass creep producer (and Def Jam co-founder) Rick Rubin supplied LL on his 1985 debut Radio, which LL uses to get uncooperative party-goers out on the dance floor. And “Ahh, Let’s Get Ill” moves at warp speed with crisp drums and piercing synths, which L flies across like a Concorde, while Cut Creator spatters scratches throughout the track, and a group of partiers chant the hook.

In addition to the four personality sides LL Cool J is primarily known for, Bigger and Deffer also shows another lesser-known side of Mr. Smith: the storyteller. “The Bristol Hotel” finds Cool James exposing a pay-for-play girl; holding court at a jump-off spot in Jamaica, Queens, and auctioning herself to anyone with a dollar to spend. “My Rhyme Ain’t Done” is whimsical and creative, and has LL telling several spiraling fables; such as Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk and Charlie Brown starting a band; the Pope climbing to Heaven on a golden rope; and LL rocking the set from the center of the Earth; and while the sparse drums pound behind him, Uncle L stuns you with his imagination and ingenuity. And “The Do Wop” is another dope story joint, where LL once again rhymes nonstop, and recalls a vivid dream filled with fly girls and king’s ransom fees for live performances, set to a clever sample of the Moonglows’ 1954 number “Over And Over Again”.

Bigger and Deffer is an impressive album, and one that fulfilled a tall order in its day. Though LL Cool J was technically a veteran when this album dropped, he was only 19 years old; and as he’d done on his debut album Radio, LL presented lyrical formats and song structures of a scope you wouldn’t expect from such a teen artist. Secondly, LL made Bigger and Deffer without the help of his brilliant mentor – Radio producer Rick Rubin – and did a good job pulling together a cohesive set on his own; co-producing this entire album with the West Coast beat team L.A. Posse. Though neither Mr. Smith nor the Posse (Darryl Pierce, Dwayne Simon and Bobby “Bobcat” Ervin) match Rick Rubin’s production excellence from Radio, their tracks are solid, and they follow LL’s subject lines wherever they lead.

In its time, it was wondered if LL Cool J could live up to the lofty expectations his platinum debut Radio created, and with Bigger and Deffer, he gave his answer: a resounding “yes”. The album was certified platinum barely a month after its release, and sold well over 2 million copies, an astronomical figure at the time, by the end of 1987. The album made Mr. Smith the biggest star in the rap world, and the clear linchpin in the Def Jam Records / Rush Management empire of Russell Simmons. To date,
Bigger and Deffer is LL Cool J’s most commercially successful album, and has sold close to 4 million copies in the United States. Uncle L became a Hip Hop immortal in the years following Bigger and Deffer, and this release contributed mightily to his legacy. No examination of LL Cool J’s career is complete without a look at this album. It’s one of his best releases, and one of the greatest rap albums ever made.

To listen to Bigger and Deffer, click here.

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