Queens rapper LL Cool J is an epic emcee known worldwide. Emerging in the 1980s, the musician (real name James Smith) was one of many legendary artists spearheading hip-hop during its golden age. However, one individual was responsible for him achieving the unfathomable amount of attention he did. Few know that Smith began his career as part of the underground trio, The Extravagant Three. However, following the crew’s dissipation, LL struggled to break through as a solo artist.
As hip-hop became increasingly profitable, everyone wanted in on rap music during the ’80s. Whether it was kids rapping on street corners or DJs mixing records in their bedrooms, everybody was looking to be part of the movement. However, with so much competition, getting noticed on even a local level was extraordinarily difficult. Fortunately for LL Cool J, one individual in the bustle of New York saw his potential extremely early. Beastie Boys were an incredibly popular collective during the ’80s.
Comprised of Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock, the trio brought the genres of rock and hip-hop together in a clever way and made an indelible mark on the culture. That said, in a 2018 interview hosted by LL on Sirius XM, Ad-Rock explained how his affinity for local music saw him stumble across LL’s material.
During the interview, Ad-Rock (real name Adam Horovitz) explained how when he was in high school, he regularly skipped class to make music with Rick Rubin in his New York University dorm room, where he was also running Def Jam. Horovitz detailed how at this time, Rubin had just released a twelve-inch single called ‘It’s Yours’ with T La Rock which boasted the Def Jam address on it.
Horovitz continued, revealing that, unsurprisingly, “Off of that record, people started sending demo tapes in, and so he (Rubin) would get all these tapes, and there was a box of tapes. And instead of being at school, I would cut school and go to Rick’s dorm, and I’d hang out…I would listen to the tapes, and I heard this one from this kid named LL Cool J…and it was really good. You were rapping.”
Recalling how he felt at the time, Horovitz detailed how he told Rubin, “You should meet this kid.'” Upon hearing the demo, he did, and shortly after, Beastie Boys were making the beat for LL’s first single, ‘I Need A Beat.’ It’s safe to say that if Ad-Rock hadn’t taken a liking to LL Cool J’s music that he wouldn’t have ended up collaborating with Rubin and signing with Def Jam.
You can listen to Ad-Rock explaining the discovery in the video below.