30 years ago, Spin Magazine published an article in which Kim Gordon, the bass player of Sonic Youth, interviewed the rapper LL Cool J. The original idea, certainly from Kim Gordon’s perspective was to establish that the largely underground New York noise rock scene, of which her band was probably the best known, had much in common with the local rap scene, of which the man born James Todd Smith was one of its biggest commercial success. It should be remembered that, at this point in history, Sonic Youth had recorded for a multitude of independent labels, gathering a fair amount of critical acclaim but not much in the way of sales while LL Cool J had enjoyed hit singles and all sorts of platinum and gold discs for his first three albums.

The outcome was something of a car crash. The rapper ‘s responses to the questions clearly antagonised the bassist almost from the outset as he boasts about his car collection and then makes fun of her knowledge of the emergence of the Beastie Boys out of hardcore rock into rap and the involvement of Rick Rubin, with whom LL Cool J had worked, before he talks about his love for Andrew Dice Clay, a comedian notorious for his sexist material. The lowpoint, however, had to be this exchange:-

KG : “What about women who are so into you as a sex object that they take a picture of you to bed with them and their boyfriends or husbands start freaking out?”

LLCJ : “It’s not my problem. The guy has to have control over his woman. She has to have enough respect for you to know not to do those things. It’s how you carry yourself.

Later on, he talks about his admiration for Bon Jovi and says he’s never heard of Iggy Pop and The Stooges. I’m not sure how many of his responses were deliberately designed to make fun of the interviewer or whether he was genuinely unaware of so much music history around his home city. Kim Gordon provided this addendum to the interview:-

“It seems pretty obvious L.L. doesn’t have many conversations with white girls like me. And likewise, I don’t have many conversations with rap musicians. But I have more access to his world – even if it is superficial, watching the NYC black video show on UHF or whatever – than L.L. will ever have to mine.”

Nine months later, Kim Gordon had penned a song that would provide her band with something approaching a breakthrough hit, based on her bitter experience:-

mp3 : Sonic Youth – Kool Thing

Chuck D makes a guest appearance, obviously quite comfortable about the music and politics of Sonic Youth and at the same time willing to poke fun at a fellow rapper, albeit one who was almost diametrically opposed to Public Enemy in terms of the music, the look and the acceptance by white America. It’s great fun to listen to, and it’s scary to think that it is fast approaching its 30th birthday.

The b-side to the 7” version of Kool Thing, certainly here in the UK was a cover version of a song written by Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine, and which pre-dated the formation of Television:-

mp3 : Sonic Youth – That’s All I Know (Right Now)
mp3 : The Neon Boys – That’s All I Know (Right Now)

I think it’s a fair assumption to say that LL Cool J would have been completely oblivious to this particular release.


7 thoughts on “I DON’T WANNA, I DON’T THINK SO

  1. Yeah…the Spin interview. I chalk it up to LLCJ being only 21 at the time. We were all chumps at that age. And there’s no reason a black kid from Queens (NY) would have known about Iggy or the Stooges; they were from Detroit (Illinois) and this was when the underground was still under ground. And Kim wasn’t really just a “white girl.”. She was a visibly hip late 30’s woman.
    Anyway, good song. And agree that Adam’s comment rules.

  2. Yup, SA got that in one.
    As for that interview…it is pure Spin Magazine attempting to provoke, rather than attempt something genuinely insightful. When the interview sits on their fence while the interviewee sits on their own, there is only a dirty alley way of misconception in between which needs to be crossed. Neither was about to jump down off their fence in that interview.

  3. Thanks for these great tunes, but aren’t the last two the same? I can hardly hear any difference between them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.