LL Cool J may not be as popular music-wise, as he once was. LL himself even joking about it towards the end of his mid-Saturday afternoon set for the third day of Lollapalooza, but he’s still not only one of the greatest emcees, but performers of all-time and proved it with his very amazing performance he played with DJ Z-Trip on the Bud Light Stage.
While Bruno Mars put on one of the best performances I probably ever seen with his headlining set at the main Grant Park stage on Friday evening, LL’s was that 10x or more over. Giving easily the best performance so far of the very popular four-day Chicago festival, which will be closing tomorrow.
The Queens native had everything down pat the way a true emcee should. From his great mic presence to incorporating the DJ, the backup b-boys and girls to just having that presence of great showmanship. LL had it all. Z-Trip getting the mostly older and diverse crowd going and letting Chicago know they were in for some real Hip-Hop from one of the original GOAT’s. As he played several classic Hip-Hop records, ranging from A Tribe Called Quest’s classic, Scenerio to Kriss Kross’, Jump to Naughty By Nature’s, Hip Hop Hooray, and Snoop Dogg’s, Gin & Juice, among others.
LL rocking his signature shades, flipped-back fitted cap and gold chain, along with a Black-and-White stripped Rock The Bells jersey, would then come out to his very explosive classic still hardest-hitting record to date, Mama Said Knock You Out. The swagger of the MC-turned-Actor still intact years later. LL would then rip into several of his classics such as, Jack the Ripper, I’m Bad, Doin’ It, Headsprung, I Can’t Live Without My Radio, Around the Way Girl and Going Back to Cali. Even serenading a female dancer covered in gold paint during his performance of, Doin’ It, and perhaps an unsubtle homage to the classic New York Golden Era Hip-Hop of the late 80’s, which he came up in and helped pioneer. The way he incorporated the b-boy and girls snapping and strutting during his performance of I’m Bad and Headsprung, a more obvious homage to that actual New York City culture of that Golden Era Hip-Hop, which really helped shape his sound, style and swagger.
The timeless appeal of his music really resonating not only with the older generation, but a lot of my generation of early 30’s or even some late 20’s fans because of a lot of our parents or older siblings or older people we knew putting us on. Which you could see from LL having not only easily one of the most packed crowds of the festival so far, but one of the most diverse as well.
As he went through his groundbreaking 80’s hit, I Need Love, along with, Loungin (Who Do U Luv), Luv U Better, Paradise and a cover of both of his hit singles with Jennifer Lopez, All I Have, and Control Myself, as well as his hit Boyz II Men collaboration, Hey Lover. You could tell the influence he still has till this day on a lot of the newer generation of rappers that sing on their records to try to make their own hits. Whether it be Drake, Fabolous, Nelly or even a Chance the Rapper.
Going into a few covers of classic Hip-Hop records throughout the set, such as Doug E. Fresh’s, Li-Di-Da-Di and the late great, The Notorious B.I.G.’s, Big Poppa and the way Z-Trip and LL’s chemistry worked together so well, was so seamless and perfect. Old-School, just an emcee with his mic and his DJ with two turntables. His DJ knowing how to actually spin and scratch the way an emcee is supposed to have the DJ at the forefront to complement him and bring out the best of him on the mic. As he closed out with, Rock the Bells, LL showed that hunger and fierceness that he came in the game with back in the late 80’s, like he still had something to prove. Which really helped him deliver not only the best performance of Lollapalooza so far, but easily among the top performances I’ve ever seen.