In the fall of 1997, LL Cool J dropped his seventh solo album “Phenomenon” full of R&B type tracks executive produced by Puff Daddy that for some of us was too similar to the shiny suit music that we didn’t want from the G.O.A.T. While it was somewhat of the same formula of the previous album “Mr. Smith,” “Hey Lover,” and “Doin It,” are classics while I don’t think people are clamoring for most of the songs from Phenomenon. But a funny thing happened when I watched an episode of Rap City one afternoon: I saw a rapper who would quickly become one of my favorites in DMX. I heard Method Man and Redman in one of their best verses and an LL Cool J would still be unquestionably one of the greatest rappers of all time.
“4,3,2,1” was Hip-Hop at its finest. A gritty beat, produced by Erick Sermon, mixed with hardcore bars would make this track easily the best from the Phenomenon album. All four men passed the mic to each other with Meth kicking off the classic.
Playing my position, hot Nick, son
This one, for all the sick ones, infliction
Poisonous darts sickening, best believe
Finger itchin’ with two broke legs, now I’m trippin’
On MCs cliche, shot that ricochets
Start trouble bust bubbles, hip to wicked ways
Gotta love me, G-O-D, no one above me’
Then, Redman comes through and shatters what Meth didn’t with his verse.
Ayo, I put it on a nigga, shitted on a nigga
Turn a Christian to a certified sinner
The bomb I release, time pent up
When you got sent up I was hitting your ex ho
Shit, I kept low, petro’ your metro
Politic, keep the chickenheads gobblin’
Shit I’m driving in come with funk halogen
Terrorize your city from the spliff committee
Now, if you are like me, you heard first heard the original with DMX with the third verse. When I heard X here for the first time, you could not tell me he was going to be one of the greats. With all 4 men rapping in a warehouse, he was the unknown. While Meth was rapping in Mummy bandages and Red was a magician, X was out here in one scene with a black leather and pit bulls or a skully with googles smashing the track.
Stay out the dark, cause if I catch you when the sun is down
Run it clown, come up off that, or I’m gon’ gun it down
When in doubt, however it’s gon’ go, it’s gon’ be that
See that, that shit’ll finish you, dog, believe that
Where we at? Do you value your life as much as your possessions?
Don’t be a stupid n****, learn a lesson
LL plays the anchor and after doing damage, proclaims he is the greatest of all time. However, this is one the beginning of what would eventually become one of the most heated tracks in Hip-Hop history. Rappers Canibus and Master P would make the remix and start what would become a memorable war. Canibus would kick off the track with a bar that we would eventually learn would piss LL clean off.
I’m the illest n**** alive, watch me prove it
I snatch your crown with ya head still attached to it
We all know LL has a mic with a crown on his arm and says he’s the goat. Even before we would hear LL’s response, many of my homies felt Canibus was dissing the goat on his track which was unheard of. LL, not playing around would change his verse and place his stamp on Canibus
When young sons fantasize of borrowing flows
Tell little shorty with the big mouth the bank is closed
The symbol on my arm is off limits to challengers
You hold the rusty swords, I swing the Excalibur
How dare you step up in my dimension
Your little ass should be somewhere cryin on detention
Watch your mouth, better yet, hold your tongue
I’ma do this shit for free, this time, this one’s for fun
Canibus would go on to drop the acclaimed “2nd Round Knockout” (with Mike Tyson in the video) while LL would release “The Ripper Strikes Back.” Over 20 years have passed and Hip-Hop still talks about this battle but always remember it started from one song. So on 4/3/21 day, we give “4,3,2,1” it’s flowers.
Can we get more posse cuts like these?