I don’t mean to alarm anybody, but rap legend and fashion icon Kool Moe Dee turns 50 years old today, which seems completely insane. Is it possible that I feel this way because he was one of the first real rappers I ever heard, and that his 50th birthday reflects on my own advancing age and reminds me that we’re all on a path that leads inevitably to our deaths?
It’s entirely possible.
I’m not the only hip-hop fan who’s experiencing something in the way of an age-related freak-out, and that’s maybe one of the reasons why rappers from the 80s and 90s get so little love these days—they’re leaving the territory of fashionable retro revivalism and creeping into being just plain old. But though he’s remembered now mostly for his trademark futuristically cool wraparound shades, Kool Moe Dee was at one time among the best MCs in the world—his aggressive baritone flow and street-level verite lyrics helped steer hip-hop from its occasionally cornball early days into the gritty crime dramas that defined the gangsta-rap era.
And he’s got a special place in my heart because his “Wild Wild West” appeared on the Yo! MTV Raps Vol. 1 compilation that accidentally fell into my hands at a young age, thereby introducing me to a whole lot of incredibly good late-80s hip-hop that wasn’t otherwise getting much play in rural Michigan. After the jump, check out the amazingly art-directed video—wraparounds and cowboy hats are such a great combo—for “Wild Wild West,” as well as “How Ya Like Me Now,” which is still just bad as hell, its LL Cool J dis a classic moment in rap beef.