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The 50 Greatest Debut Albums in Hip-Hop History

13. LL Cool J, Radio

Label: Def Jam
Release Date: 11/18/1985

James Todd Smith was 17 years old when his debut became the first full-length release on Def Jam Records. Radio featured production by sonic visionary Rick Rubin plus a remix by Jazzy Jay, the DJ who introduced Rubin to Russell Simmons. Rap historian Dan Charnas summarized the impact of the single, "Rock The Bells," thus: "This DJ here? He's the new guitar god. This music here? This is the new rock and roll. And we didn't have to lighten the beat or play a guitar to do it. 'Rock The Bells' was the angry death knell of the old musical order, a call to arms from Rubin's new label, Def Jam."

Recorded in New York City at Chung King House of Metal, Radio was arguably the first cohesive rap album, sounding like nothing else before. Tracks like "I Need A Beat," "I Can't Live Without My Radio" and the freaky fave "Dear Yvette" helped the album go gold within a year of its release, despite limited radio play. Ironic? Sure. But cassette copies of LL's debut sure wore out a lot of boombox batteries.

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