66)LL Cool J – Ill Bomb

Song: Ill Bomb

Album: Funkmaster Flex & Big Kap – The Tunnel

Year: 1999

I’m a huge proponent of underdogs, songs and albums that just catch you off guard and put all present competition to shame. After falling off, coming back on a horse with Mama Said Knock You Out and retreading again, LL Cool J came back for one final hurrah with “Ill Bomb”. This was his last truly classic “underground” song at the time when a new elite (Jay-Z, Nas, Big Pun, Black Thought, Mos Def, Talib Kweli etc.) had been ushered in and many thought LL’s jersey should be hanging from the rafters.

LL Cool J was a complete enigma on this one to me. We were used to him screaming with fury to exert his dominance (“Mama Said Knock You Out”, “I’m Bad”, “4,3,2,1 etc.) but on “Ill Bomb” he was as smooth as silk spitting like his career still depended on it. He could have stuck to tradition and delivered those same verses with force, but there was almost an air of nonchalance as he took on the role of an elder statesman with nothing left to prove. Don’t mistake me for saying he was lazy, he didn’t slouch at all with his performance, he just came incredibly calm and showed that he didn’t have to bark to put you in your place.

When you combine the confidence in lines like “L aint worth paper? Ask Russell Simmons who put him up in that skyscraper/ask my dogs up at FUBU who made ‘em major”, the slight variations in the hook after each verse, and the beat from DJ Scratch (a precursor to the soul sampling style of 9th Wonder’s that I would fall in love with a few years down the line), I could marvel to no end about this song. If LL gave this to the world as his last gift and walked off into the sunset he would have made a great case for having one of the strongest track records of anyone, but alas…

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