SUNDAY NIGHT the Capital Centre will be transformed into Hip-Hop U., offering a survey course in current rap styles that ranges from the melodic pop-rap of Whodini to the angry black-nationalist communiques of Public Enemy. Among the featured stars with recent albums are headliner L.L. Cool J, Stetsasonic and Eric B. & Rakim.
Michael Jackson calls himself "Bad," but anyone who's heard L.L. Cool J's "I'm Bad," the muscular leadoff single from the 19-year-old rapper's "Bigger and Deffer" album, knows better. "Bigger and Deffer" doesn't rival L.L.'s bell-rocking debut album, which was innovatively produced by Beastie Boys mastermind Rick Rubin; the disc's current hit, "I Need Love," is one of the more dubious tracks on an album that has a lot of missteps, from the failed early-rock/rap synthesis of "The Do-Wop" and "Go Cut Creator Go" to the hardcore sexism of "Kanday" and "The Bristol Hotel." At his best, though, L.L. is still the most agile rapper this side of Run-D.M.C.
Stetsasonic is a self-contained outfit that includes three vocalists, a "mix surgeon," a "human mix machine" and, perhaps most important, keyboardist and percussionist DBC. "4ever My Beat" kicks off the group's "On Fire" album, and it's an apt motto: these Brooklyn B-boys know how to hit that perfect beat. Stetsasonic does the now-traditional rap/metal duel on "Rock De La Stet" and cops a reggae rhythm occasionally, but the sextet is at its best when it simply sets out to "Bust That Groove."
Rap stardom can be a one-shot thing, and often deserves to be. Eric B. & Rakim's "Eric B. Is President," with its demanding "make 'em clap to this" hook, was a big hit last year, and rightly so. The duo's "Paid in Full" album, however, offers little else of interest. Its beats are monotonous, and the attempts to take "jazz and the quiet storm" and "convert into hip-hop form" fall flat. L.L. COOL J --
"Bigger and Deffer" (Def Jam/Columbia FC 40793)
"On Fire" (Tommy Boy TBLP 1012)
ERIC. B & RAKIM --
"Paid in Full" (Fourth and Broadway B'WAY 4005)
All appearing with Whodini, Public Enemy and Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince Sunday at the Capital Centre.