Kool Moe Dee–LL Cool J feud
At least six songs exist where the rappers attack each other, either by name or implicitly.
Kool Moe Dee was a member of one of the earliest hip hop crews, the Treacherous Three, and noted that LL Cool J stole his style, while disrespecting lyricists who came before him --- by not showing any appreciation, and making claims of being the best, when he was too fresh of a face to have acquired such acknowledgment --- starting a long-running feud between them. From different interviews and magazines at the time, Kool Moe Dee felt that LL was actually believing his own hype based on the popularity and success of the Bigger and Deffer album.
The conflict begins
The conflict began with Kool Moe Dee responding to LL for claiming to be "rap's new grandmaster," which Kool Moe Dee took as a slight to old school pioneers such as Grandmaster Melle Mel and Grandmaster Caz (and by proxy, Kool Moe Dee himself).
In the title track, while not mentioning LL by name, refers to another MC, who had copied his style and apparently questioned his ability to sell records. He also mentions along the way that he's "talking about battles, and never had a battle yet". Interestingly, both this as well as copying someone's beat were the same criticisms MC Shan had leveled at him in his earlier record "Beat Biter". In fact, considering the numerous rap acts taking shots at LL, "He became the target of choice for striving rappers, with no posse of his own to watch his back".
LL's response and escalation
LL responded with "Jack the Ripper" which was included as a B-side to the "Going Back to Cali" single from the Less Than Zero soundtrack where LL, though not mentioning Moe Dee by name, derides a "washed up rapper" and "old school sucker punk" and then makes a couple of direct jabs at the title of the first record, such as at the climax of the rap, "How ya like me now? I'm gettin' busier'; I'm double platinum, watching you get dizzier...". "Jingling Baby", also contained shots at Moe Dee, without any direct references.
Kool Moe Dee fired back with an even more aggressive response entitled "Let's Go", which appeared as a b-side to his 1987 single "No Respect". In that song, he mentions LL by making an alliteration of pejoratives beginning with the letter "L", ("lower level, last, least, etc."):
- You got Had for Tryna be me, now LL stands for
- Lower Level, Lack Luster
- Last Least, Limp Lover
- Lousy Lame, Latent Lethargic
- Lazy Lemon, Little Logic
- Lucky Leech, Liver Lipped
- Laborious Louse on a Loser's Lips
- Live in Limbo, Lyrical Lapse
- Low Life with a Loud Rasp, boy
The sequence ended with the following:
- You can't win, I don't bend, Look what you got yourself in,
- just using your name I took those L’s,
- hung ‘em on your head and rocked your bells...
Moe Dee also criticizes how LL's albums went double platinum and accuses him of sounding like a girl:
- Put up or shut up, get up, yeah what up?
- Huh, get on the microphone and get cut up
- Talk about how your records went double platinum
- With those lyrics?! Huh, I laugh at them
- So you got paid, take the money you've made
- Bet it on yourself, are you afraid?
- Money talks, B.S. walks
- When I stalk like a hawk a victory is chalked
- So put your money where your mouth is, you don't know about this
- Battlin's for real men, and I doubt if
- You can even hang or give a run for the money
- You're just a sucker, and it's funny
- How you never ever had a drop of juice in New York
- And now you go on tour and try to talk that talk
- You try to act like you're a big man, but you're a big fan
- Stridin' and hidin' while ridin' my big man
- You ain't got a chance in the world
- Your records were smokin', but you sound like a girl...
After a sample of a quote from LL's song "Jack the Ripper" is briefly heard, he continues:
- Hold up
- Is he a man or a girl? What in the world?
- You sound like Cheryl the Pearl
- And you wanna battle me on the microphone?
- Leave that crack alone, let's go...
LL responded on his 1990 album Mama Said Knock You Out with "To Da Break of Dawn"; where he makes fun of "Star Trek shades" (referring to Kool Moe Dee's characteristic eyeglasses), and also attacks both MC Hammer and Ice-T for dissing him on records.
The album's title track "Mama Said Knock You Out", also took shots at him.
Kool Moe Dee fired back on Funke, Funke Wisdom with "Death Blow", where he answers all three singles: (e.g. "If Mama said knock me out; come do it!") He would conclude with another alliteration of negative "L" words (with a different rhythm). Also on that same album, the song titled "To the Beat" an old school styled flow, which was a direct shot at L.L.'s song "To the Break of Dawn". The lead into the chorus after each verse literally said "This is to the beat, You can forget the Break of Dawn". A Lyric at the end of the first verse states "Breakin' competition, Competitions ripped apart ~ Find another Brother `Cause L.L. ain't got the Heart". A Lyric at the end of the second verse, "Frontin' like you're Hard, but it's only a Facade ~ And now you're goin' out, like a Sucka like Todd (L.L.'s real first name)". At the end of the song, Moe Dee says - "Yes, Yes Ya'll, as we proceed to move on ~ To the Break of Dawn, hahaha-ha, takin' it all the way back, the way we use to do it, for you & yours in the Old School ~ Singin' off" -
Ending and aftermath
After this, the battle began to die down. LL's next album 14 Shots to the Dome contained the track, "(NFA) No Frontin Allowed" which takes various shots at Kool Moe Dee. While LL is widely known for his commercial success, it was Kool Moe Dee who was seen as having the more hard-hitting lyrics. LL would later emphasize his success on "I Shot Ya Remix"; "..Crushed Moe Dee, Hammer and Ice-T's girl". Regarding LL's "double platinum" status, Murray Forman says, "As this suggests, microphone skills are crucial, but sales were the final determinant of one's supremacy. While Kool Moe Dee was unquestionably a bankable and bona fide rap star, LL Cool J's sales far outdistanced him, a reflection of...the commercial terrains of the evolving rap music market."
Kool Moe Dee, who had been calling LL to a live battle which he never engaged in, had commented:"I always said that the reason LL can never win a battle is because he talks so much about himself – that he can't talk about anything else. He used his charisma, energy and vocabulary, which is basically a combination of my style, T La Rock & Run, but in battling it's more. Like when I hit him with the Ls (lower level, lackluster etc) it wasn't just insulting, but it had poetic value to it".
He also continued that part of his issue with LL (as well as Run) were that ....he felt like "nothing that came before them mattered, and that his money could validate that."
List of relevant records
- Kool Moe Dee - "How Ya Like Me Now" from How Ya Like Me Now (1987)
- LL Cool J - "Jack the Ripper" (single, 1987) appears on Walking With a Panther (1989)
- Kool Moe Dee - "Let's Go" appears as a b-side to "No Respect" (single, 1987)
- LL Cool J - "Mama Said Knock You Out" from Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
- LL Cool J - "To The Break of Dawn" from Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
- Kool Moe Dee - "Death Blow" from Funke, Funke Wisdom (1991)
- Kool Moe Dee - "To the Beat" from Funke, Funke Wisdom (1991)
- Michel, Sia (1999). "LL Cool J". The Vibe History of Hip Hop. Three Rivers Press. p. 85. ISBN 0609805037.
- Saxon, Shani (1999). "Battle Rhymes". The Vibe History of Hip Hop. Three Rivers Press. pp. Inset. ISBN 0609805037.
- Bogdanov, Vladimir (2003). All Music Guide to Hip-Hop: The Definitive Guide to Rap and Hip-Hop. Backbeat Books. pp. 268–9. ISBN 0879307595.
- Keyes, Cheryl Lynette (2002). Rap Music and Street Consciousness. University of Illinois Press. pp. 85, 137–9. ISBN 0252072014.
- George, Nelson (1994). "Kool Moe Dee & L.L. Cool J: I Versus I". Buppies, B-boys, Baps & Bohos: Notes on Post-Soul Black Culture. HarperCollins. pp. 86–7. ISBN 0306810271.
- Forman, Murray (2002). The 'Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop. Wesleyan University Press. pp. 166–7. ISBN 0819563978.
- Quan, Jay (May 4, 2002). "Kool Moe Dee Interview". The Foundation. Retrieved 2008-01-03.