3 Songs You Didn’t Know LL Cool J Wrote for Other Artists

LL Cool J is one of the first early heroes of hip-hop. The now-55-year-old, New York City-born rapper first began rapping at 10 and not long after in his teens, he connected with the early rap label Def Jam, signing to the outfit in 1984. Then came big hits like “Rock the Bells” in 1985 and “Mama Said Knock You Out” in 1990. With Def Jam, LL was one of several successful artists in the musical stable, including Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, along with producer Rick Rubin and burgeoning mogul Russell Simmons.

Videos by American Songwriter

As a result, LL, now also an actor, helped his labelmates write an important song for the third Run-DMC LP. He also wrote other verses for other tracks along the way in his career. Below, we will dive into a few of those. Here are three songs you likely didn’t know LL Cool J wrote for other artists.

1. “Can You Rock It Like This,” Run-DMC

Written by LL Cool J, Rick Rubin, Larry Smith

The 1985 single by the trailblazing rap trio Run-DMC, “Can You Rock It Like This,” was the third release from the group’s LP, King of Rock. A 16-year-old LL Cool J wrote the lyrics for the song and session artist Eddie Martinez played guitar. The Def Jam rap-rock hybrid is often credited to Rick Rubin but before Rubin, there was Larry Smith.

“People forget about Larry Smith, but Larry Smith owned hip-hop and rap,” said Run-DMC’s Darryl McDaniels in the 2011 book, I Want My MTV. “He produced our first two albums, and he produced Whodini. The rock-rap sound was Larry Smith’s vision, not Rick Rubin’s. Rick changed the story, but Larry was there first. Actually, me and Run were against the guitar.”

The LP, King of Rock, which was a statement by the crossover group, was the first rap record to be pressed to CD and only the third ever to go platinum.

If I eat, a little kid, sticks his finger in my plate
I be signing autographs, for three months straight
I got jet-set women, who offer me favors
My face is a thousand lipstick flavors
Need a sip of lemonade, I’m a slave to my trade
From all these lights my complexion might fade
Secretary overworked, by a money hungry jerk
Got a letter, answer woman, won’t you freak out on my shirt?

2. “No Diggity,” Blackstreet

Written by Teddy Riley, Chauncey Hannibal, Lynise Walters, William Stewart, Dr. Dre, LL Cool J

In an interview with media personality Jenny McCarthy, LL talked about ghostwriting. McCarthy mentioned his writing the chorus for the ’90s hit rap song, “No Diggity,” by Blackstreet—though LL is not given a credit on the song. He talked about writing the hook, which was originally meant for another song, but then it turned into a Blackstreet hit.

I like the way you work it
No diggity, I got to bag it up, bag it up
I like the way you work it
No diggity, I got to bag it up, bag it up, girl

I like the way you work it
No diggity, I got to bag it up, bag it up
I like the way you work it
No diggity, I got to bag it up, get up

3. “Self Destruction,” Stop the Violence Movement (KRS-ONE)

Written by Boogie Down Productions, Stetsasonic, Kool Moe Dee, LL Cool J, Doug Fresh, Just-Ice, Heavy D, Chuck D

“Self Destruction” comes from the Stop the Violence Movement, it’s the only single from the group founded by iconic Boogie Down Productions rapper KRS-ONE. There are many lyricists on the record and one is the New York City-born MC Lyte. LL Cool J wrote Lyte’s verse. At the time, he was between projects and he didn’t want to be out public without a new album.

“I wanted my input in without having to be on the record,” he said in 1989 to TV personality Dr. Ruth. LL added that he got no credit, and no money, and asked people to keep it hushed. But he let it slip in 1989 that he was in fact part of the song.

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Leave a Reply

The 20 Best Daryl Hall Quotes