Skip to main content

LL Cool J Encourages Us to Not Worship Lyrical Complexity: "That's a Rule I've Always Bucked"

“I don’t know if people understand how much intellectual prowess it takes to write something that’s simple.”
DJBooth_logo2x

LL Cool J was one of hip-hop’s first solo superstars, so it is no surprise that he was the first rap artist to receive Kennedy Center Honors this month for his lifetime contributions to American arts and culture. On the heels of this lifetime achievement, he spoke withIndependent’s Chris Richards about his long-standing career and understanding of the craft.

“I don’t know if people understand how much intellectual prowess it takes to write something that’s simple,” he explains to Richards. “Let me give you an example. . . . Tolstoy is far more complex than the Lord’s Prayer. But which one was harder to write? In rap, there’s this tendency to worship complexity, and that’s a rule I’ve always bucked.” He later adds, “I don’t worship complexity, man.”

For several years now, the debate over lyrical rap versus mumble rap has been a hot-button topic, with fans and artists arguing over the merits of each approach, and if “mumble rap” can even live under the hip-hop umbrella. Here, LL's comments on complexity bring some nuance to the conversation as he insists that artists don’t need to spit double-time lyrical miracles in order to have substance in their music.

Scroll to Continue

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES

Header--15-

“Let It All Out”: An Interview With PGF Nuk

PGF Nuk is the newest prodigy of Chicago drill. He breaks down his career journey for Audiomack World.

am-world-top10-july-16x9@2x--1-

10 Rappers You Should Know Right Now

Get familiar with ASM Bopster, Kill Jasper, Sha EK, Bandmanrill, Dr. Grim, Ice Spice and more — all available for stream on Audiomack.

BOTW-16x9--6-

5 New Songs You Need to Hear: Best of the Week

Drake, Asake, Kay Flock, Ckay, and FKA twigs delivered the best new songs of the week on Audiomack.

21 Savage’s deadpan delivery and blunt lyrics do not make his life nor his music any less harrowing, much like a young artist's ability to rap at the speed of light doesn’t make them a shoe-in for Best New Artist. As much as hip-hop is predicated on competition, valuing one means of execution over another will only stunt the genre’s evolution and discourage new rappers.

Delivery might be what gives a rap song its body, but there has to be some level of appreciation and self-awareness from fans and tastemakers. Do you dislike a particular song because you don't like an MC's delivery or do you really believe the track lacks substance entirely? Can you dislike a style like drill but still see the incredible value an artist like G Herbo brings to the table as a rapper?

Also, will we ever be more open-minded? Maybe I’m asking too much.

Related

DJBooth_logo2x

Did You Know? LL Cool J's "Doin It" Was Meant For Biggie

If Diddy punched Drake over "0-100," imagine what he was ready to do to LL over "Doin It."

DJBooth_logo2x

Big Boi on the Possibility of New OutKast: "Whenever 'Dre is Ready, I'm Always Ready"

“Nobody can stop us, together or separate, and that’s not being cocky, that’s being real.”

DJBooth_logo2x

Kendrick Lamar's New Album is "Not That Jazzy Sound," According to Syk Sense

"It's f**king Memphis f**king—I don't even know what to call it."

LL Cool J art by Ryan Robinson

LL Cool J: The Lost Interview — "I Didn’t Get Into Hip-Hop For Money"

We spoke with the hip-hop legend one month before the release of his final album on Def Jam, 'Exit 13.'