Rap’s Most Valuable Player: 1987

1987 has been called a pivotal year in Hip-Hop music. Almost as if we were seeing the passing of the torch, several influential acts began their careers by launching projects in 1987.

LL Cool J released "BAD: Bigger and Deffer" in 1987

One of the most polarizing figures of the 1980s, LL Cool J welcomed BAD: Bigger and Deffer to the world. Although the album is colorful, fun and features one of the most well-known and boastful songs in hip-hop history(I’m Bad), it’s a step down from the pure, unadulterated rawness that was Radio. Though with the power of “I’m Bad” and the original hip-hop love ballad “I Need Love,” LL Cool J still scored another hit as the album achieved mainstream success once again.

Not everything was good for Cool J though. Kool Moe Dee, a member of the pioneering Hip-hop group The Treacherous Three, began denouncing LL Cool J for plagiarizing his style and being a bit too cocky after his mainstream success. It was in 1987 that Kool Moe Dee released “How Ya Like Me Now” which featured LL’s trademark red Kangol hat being crushed under a jeep.

The album was filled with line-after-line of hard-hitting punches to the gut of LL. The title track is especially relevant as Kool Moe Dee disregards the subliminals and comes straight for the chest of LL:

“It happened to James like it happened to me
How you think I feel to see another MC
Gettin’ paid usin’ my rap style
And I’m playn’ the background meanwhile
I ain’t with that
You can forget that
You took my style
I’m takin’ it back”

The feud would run through the rest of 1987 and into 1988 as both New York emcees battled for lyrical supremacy. Although well-publicized, the feud was not enough to lift either rapper into my mind as the most valuable rapper of 1987.

This title could also have easily been given to the tandem of DJ Eric Barrier and MC Rakim, known to the hip-hop world as Eric B. & Rakim. Now considered one of the most influential rap groups of all-time, the two men who helped popularize mass sampling released their debut album, Paid In full to worldwide critical acclaim. The mixing and scratching of Eric B. were praised and applauded as innovative. The complex, internal rhyme style of Rakim arguably helped start the “golden age” of hip-hop where lyrics came to the forefront of the game.

Although worthy contenders to the title of Most Valuable Rapper of 1987, the winner(s) are members of one of the most influential groups of all-time:

Boogie Down Productions

The original lineup of Boogie Down Productions featured D-Nice, DJ Scott La Rock and KRS-One. In 1987, the group released their debut album, Criminal Minded. Calling this album influential would be an understatement.

The album became essentially the prototype for all future East Coast rap releases. One of the first albums to feature firearms on the cover, Criminal Minded was chock-full of rhymes of murder, drugs, prostitution and politics at a time when most of rap was concerned with their jewelry and having a good time.

Dancehall Reggae was an obvious influence throughout the album as KRS-One is considered one of the first artists to try and bridge the gap between American and Jamaican music. This album also was a huge force behind the rivalry between Boogie Down and MC Shan and the Juice Crew. South Bronx versus Queensbridge. A battle over the true birthplace of Hip-Hop music, the war produced one of the greatest diss songs of all time, “The Bridge is Over.” A response to Marley Marl & MC Shan’s “The Bridge,” the combination of “The Bridge is Over” and “South Bronx” arguably ended the career of MC Shan and became the most notable songs from the Bridge Wars.

Sadly, five months after the release of their debut album, DJ Scott La Rock was murdered after trying to solve a conflict involving D-Nice. His death would not be in vain though as KRS-One eventually would create the Stop The Violence movement, in large part because of La Rock’s death.

Because of their success and legendary debut album, Boogie Down Productions are rap’s Most Valuable Players for 1987.

1985: LL Cool J
1986: Run-D.M.C.
1987: Boogie Down Productions

Public Enemy
Eric B & Rakim
DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
MC Hammer
LL Cool J
Kool Moe Dee

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