The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

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LL Cool J, 'Rock the Bells'

21. LL Cool J, 'Rock the Bells'

Radio, 1985

Leaping off a rock-hard riff from AC/DC's 1983 scorcher "Flick the Switch" (also tapped for the Beastie Boys' "Slow and Low"), Long Island teenager James Todd Smith calls out every rapper in town, disses Michael Jackson and Prince, dismisses Bruce Springsteen and pledges to "make Madonna scream." His flow is so scene-chewingly hungry, you don't doubt him for a minute. The third single from his debut, Radio, is Rick Rubin's remake of an early 12-inch version that in fact had bells (the same ones that show up on Run-DMC's Rubin-produced "Peter Piper"). But this one rings even louder. It's a rap Rosetta stone quoted to this day. LL liked it so much he went ahead and sampled it himself on his equally crushing 1991 single "Mama Said Knock You Out."

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