Throughout hip hop history, there are a few albums that one can point to as watermark moments. The kind of albums that land on the collective consciousness and deliver a brand new way of thinking. LL Cool J’s 1985 debut album, Radio is most certainly one of them. Released on November 18th via Def Jam, Radio remains a classic from hip hop’s golden age.
The New York rapper’s influence on hip hop and pop culture at large can never be underestimated. His flawlessly smooth flow coupled with an undoubtedly potent charisma ensured LL was always at the tip of everybody’s tongue in the 1980s and beyond. For one rapper, in particular, the rapper would be an icon. A scrawny white kid from Detroit would take LL to his heart.
Eminem is one of the greatest rappers of all time. Not only is he a hugely profitable performer, selling millions and millions of records, but also one of the finest lyrical constructors hip hop has ever produced. But, for Em, LL Cool J is one of the icons of the genre.
In fact, Slim Shady is such a fan that he prank-called his hero on LL’s SiriusXM radio show while pretending to be ‘Jason from Miami’. After a couple of minutes, Shady revealed his true identity and then started begging the rapper to hang out with him, even telling LL about how he’s got cable TV in a bid to lure him in.
In a later appearance on the same radio show, Eminem spoke with Cool J again to discuss how much he aspired to be him when he was younger. “I wanted to be like you; I hope that doesn’t sound weird,” Eminem explained. “I absolutely wanted to be like you,” the rapper continued, “I wanted to be like Run-D.M.C. It was something about the energy to just say what you want to say, and you could talk about your life, and you could talk about shit that bothers you. I just gravitated towards it, and I never strayed from the first day that I heard a rap song.”
In another interview on the show, Eminem remembered the first time he ever met LL Cool J: “The Slim Shady EP that we pressed up starting actually moving some decent amount of units. You know, it was like 1,000, 2,000,” Eminem began. “We had a guy in Vegas… They had a guy that wanted to buy 5,000 of them… So, we go to Vegas, we start running around putting the shit on consignment at different stores and stuff. I come back to the hotel just from doing that and Marky Bass was like, ‘Man, we got a call from some doctor. [Laughs]. He wants to meet with you.’ So I’m like, ‘Don’t fuck with me. Don’t fuck with me. Do not fuck with me.’
“Because I remember I was in the car with these two chicks right before I went out to Vegas to sell the tapes… These two chicks in the car were playing ‘Phone Tap.’ I was like, ‘Yo, if I could just get with Dre, oh my god!’ Literally, a week later, we got a meeting with Dre when we go out there.” It was a massive moment in the hip hop world and offered Eminem a chance to meet his idols.
“And the next thing you know, I’m in Foot Locker with Kirdis Tucker and she’s getting outfits for the ‘Just Don’t Give a Fuck’ video, and I see you,” Em continued to LL on the show. “I’m like, ‘Yo, he’s in here by himself.’ I was buggin’ the fuck out… You quoted a lyric back to me. You said, ‘Yo, how can I be white / I don’t even exist.’ You quoting that lyric back to me, was like, I think I shit myself.”
It’s a reminder that underneath the legends, the stories and the iconography are always artists and, beyond that, just humans.