The Extravagant 3: LL Cool J’s forgotten Queens trio
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The Extravagant 3: LL Cool J's forgotten Queens trio

Deep in the history books of hip-hop exists a bedazzling trio that birthed some of the culture’s most seminal figures. However, even the most loyal golden-age rap music fans may be unaware of their existence. Founded by three teens from Queens in 1983, the collective may not even be a footnote in hip-hop’s book of legends. Still, The Extravagant 3 are far from irrelevant when one considers the pioneers it birthed, and they are wrongly overlooked.

Comprised of Dr. Butcher, Royal Rich, and LL Cool J, the trio served as their launchpad into the higher échelons of hip-hop, with each carving out their own place in the culture, respectively. As members of the Extravagant Three, these icons honed their craft and would solidify themselves as legends in New York legends shortly after.

The collective lasted for six months. While in existence, the friends never made a record or played a single show. However, none of this depletes its importance. Dr. Butcher is best known for his turntablism and beat-making. Following his stint in the Extravagant 3, he would become one of the primary producers for the Juice Crew in the ’90s working alongside the legendary Marly Marl and Mister Cee.

Butcher’s counterpart, LL Cool J would reach dizzying heights of stardom as a solo emcee after clinching a record deal with Russell Simmons’ label, Def Jam in 1984, while he remained on the underground. Many hip-hop heads see LL Cool J as a remarkable rapper who just appeared. However, he worked hard for many years on the New York hip-hop scene before and after the Extravagant Three, collaborating with many MCs during the process.

Rap music fans who delve deep enough into the genre’s origins will understand that the Extravagant 3’s apparent omission from the hip-hop history books is merely down to poor timing. The collective was formed at the beginning of a hip-hop culture shift. It was the tail end of the era when group names ended in numbers, live instrumentation was used on records, and MCs rapped about block parties and fun.

As the early 1980s moved into its mid-to-late stages, East Coast hip-hop began to embrace drum machines, synthesizers, and scratching. It was when the culture transitioned from funky to brash and when electro superseded funk as the more appropriate backbeat to music that was becoming increasingly political and dystopian. A combination of skill, luck, and enthusiasm brought the Extravagant Three together. Still, the abundance of sonics and styles at this critical time put them each on significantly different career trajectories.

Even after becoming a global hip-hop sensation with Platinum albums to his name, LL Cool J still stayed in touch with his former crew mates from the Extravagant Three. In an interview concerning his relationship with LL Cool J Dr. Butcher explained, “Me and him maintained the best type of friendship for a long time. He ended up moving to LA, but whenever he was in New York he would make it his business to call me, or we’d go hang out.”

So although the Queens trio didn’t reach the heights of Run-DMC, the collective is still an important and unfortunately overlooked part of hip-hop history, especially in New York. You can hear their most successful member, LL Cool J’s, most renowned single, ‘Rock The Bells’ in the video below.