LL Cool J – ‘I’m Bad': Throwback Video of the Day
LL Cool J was born bad, meaning born to be one of hip-hop's most underappreciated superstars. “By the time I got that equipment, I was already a rapper," LL told The New York Times in 1987. "I got into it when I was about 9, and since then all I wanted was to make a record and hear it on the radio."
The Queens rapper, known as James Todd Smith, cemented his reputation as the baddest rapper in the game, dating back to 1987 when he released the lead single “I’m Bad” off his Bigger and Deffer (BAD) album. The project had the same, rock-rap vibe as his Rick Rubin-produced debut, Radio, except this time, the project’s supervising producer, Russell Simmons, recruited L.A. Posse to lay down the beats. What resulted was an aggressive track that sampled the S.W.A.T theme song by Rhythm Heritage, Federal Signal Corporation’s Q2B siren and the track “Rock the Bells,” from the rapper’s previous work.
The music video’s storyline, crafted by director Ronaldo Hudson, paid homage to Blaxploitation films of the '70s and supported the rapper’s desire to stretch beyond the one-dimensional gangster rapper archetype. ''I want to be a gangster and a lover at the same time, but a good gangster," he told The New York Times about his image. “A good gangster is a person who has etiquette, who speaks softly but carries a big stick.''
The music video played into LL’s duality as both a bad boy and a savior, as he rescues a kidnapped victim, while also parading around bare-chested saying, “No rapper can rap quite like I can. I’ll take a muscle-bound man and put his face the sand.” It’s a playful video with an edge. Which complimented the direction Cool James was heading: he was a 20-year-old newcomer, signed to the prominent rap record label — Def Jam — and had a marketable image. He was the rapper that would make a seamless transition into mainstream Hollywood. "I’m Bad" showcased his potential to be that guy.
The album ultimately peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and went on to sell two million copies. "I’m Bad" hit No. 4 on the Hot Black Singles. Misson accomplished.