LL Cool J, Unplugged (1991)
In 1991, MTV’s Unplugged aired its first acoustic rap show. With performances by hip-hop phenoms De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, the episode changed the way many fans of the series viewed hip hop and opened the door for a more lush and live instrumental sound in rap music. While the sets by De La Soul and Tribe are, unsurprisingly, phenomenal, it is the energetic onslaught of LL Cool J’s performance of “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “Jingling Baby” that steals the show. Invoking the fervor of rock and the vocal tenacity of blues, LL proves that hip hop isn’t dependent on technology or devoid of emotionalism. It’s unfortunate that LL Cool J’s deodorant-caked armpits were as memorable as his performance.