LL Cool J is infamous for his rap battles with Kool Moe Dee, MC Hammer and Ice-T. Many hip hop heads were confused when LL began a feud with young up and coming rapper Canibus, who was introduced to LL by his former managerm Wyclef Jean. LL worked with young rappers – he would put them on a track and give them exposure. In 1997, “4, 3, 2, 1,” a track on LL’s album, “Phenomenon,” featured Canibus, DMX, Method Man & Redman. Canibus wrote his verse on the track and LL took it as a low blow. The line “L, is that a mic on your arm? Let me borrow that” was taken out of context and LL told Canibus to change his lyrics.
Canibus agreed to this only if LL would change his lyrics as well. LL refused, and lyrically murdered Canibus on the track. The lyrics LL spit that dissed Canibus were “The symbol on my arm is off limits to challengers” and “Now let’s get back to this mic on my arm / If it ever left my side, it’d transform into a time bomb / You don’t wanna borrow that, you wanna idolize.” No one knew this at the time until years later when Canibus’ original verse was leaked. Many hip hop fans were disgusted, and fellow rappers said LL Cool J was just stroking his ego – that the diss wasn’t necessary.
After the track was made, Canibus and LL began to take their feud a little further. Canibus recorded the track “Second Round K.O.” and made a music video that featured Mike Tyson. This song dissed LL Cool J for being on a family sitcom, dissing his family and his ego. It was well received and, propelled Canibus’ career. LL Cool J counter attacked Canibus with the vicious “The Ripper Strikes Back.” Canibus’ album “Can-I-Bus” only went gold, and critics panned the release. LL Cool J came out with another diss track that featured Ja Rule, called “Back Where I Belong” on his “G.O.A.T.” album that was released in 2000. Canibus’ career was pretty much dead at this point, with only his debut album selling well.
The aftermath of the rap battle:
Canibus’ albums after his debut did not chart, and sold less and less as time went on. In 2002, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and he released “Rip the Jacker,” his most critically acclaimed album. He was later discharged from the service for smoking marijuana. Canibus is well known for his lyrical ability, but many critics pan him for selling out through his career to achieve commercial success. Sources have said Canibus will retire releasing 3 more albums. At first, he was referred to as a “modern day Rakim” for his complex lyrical ability, but LL Cool J killed his career. If it hadn’t been for the battle, maybe Canibus would have gained more commercial success.
LL Cool J continued to be a force in the rap game. All of his albums since “Phenomenon”, the original diss track that featured Canibus, have gone platinum. LL has had a lot of hits, along with being an entrepreneur and a successful actor appearing in 19 movies since 1997. He released his last album off of Def Jam recordings, the only record label he has been a part of since 1985. LL is now a regular character on the successful crime series “NCIS: Los Angeles”. LL Cool J’s presence and status could not be overshadowed by Canibus, and everyone knew it. One of the few rap battles in hip hop that didn’t make much sense.