LL Cool J’s third album was greeted with some dismissal on its release in 1989, the complaints being that it was too commercial and focused on material wealth and romance (had these people heard LL’s previous albums?).

Rolling Stone dismissed the album as behind the times: “At least half of Panther is the de rigueur I’m-the-baddest stuff, in which L.L. disses other rappers and salutes his own phone line.” Yes, beefing with other rappers and using his music to sell something—two behaviors that need to completely disappear from hip-hop.

Another thing stacked against the album; going into it, LL had been abandoned by two-thirds of his production team, The L.A. Posse, over money squabbles. It didn’t matter; Rick Rubin was enlisted for a track and the Bomb Squad for another two. What emerged was a classic piece of late ‘80s hip-hop that yielded no less than five hit singles—“Going Back to Cali,” “I’m That Type of Guy,” “Jingling Baby,” “Big Ole Butt,” and “One Shot at Love.”

For hip-hop fans of any age or socioeconomic background, these songs served as the soundtrack for that summer and fall; they rocked jeeps and suburban school buses more or less equally.

By the way, the cat on the cover isn’t a panther and LL clearly isn’t walking with it, but Crouching Behind A Jaguar probably didn’t sound as cool.