Throwback Thursday Revisits LL Cool J's "4,3,2,1"

In 1997, the posse cut "4,3,2,1" was a lesson that LL Cool J apparently doesn't take compliments too well.

If some type of Hip Hop Karma exists, you have to think LL Cool J is going to catch a bad one for the way he treated Canibus on “4,3,2,1.” Is there any type of precedent for inviting someone to rhyme on a song, misinterpreting their flattery as a diss and then convincing them to record another verse only to air them out on the same song?

Such was the case with 1997’s “4,3,2,1.” Mr. Smith opted to go for another posse cut. And it’s hard to argue with the strategy considering the results from 1995‘s “I Shot Ya.” LL and his Def Jam labelmates DMX, Redman and Method Man were joined by a token appearance from Master P and newcomer Canibus. Despite ripping every guest appearance he had been on prior to that point, ‘Bis said he approached “4,3,2,1” humble.

“LL was like a father figure in Rap music,” Canibus said, when speaking on the now-infamous battle for QD3’s “Beef” series. “I was just somebody who was coming in the game. I had done other records prior to ‘4,3,2,1.’ But I was coming into the game looking for someone to be under their wing, rock with them and tear the whole game down from the inside out.”

By now everyone knows the story of how LL Cool J threatened to drop ‘Bis from the track unless Canibus removed his line about borrowing the microphone tattooed on LL’s arm. Everyone else seemed to understand the line wasn’t a diss, but Canibus changed his verse anyway. By then, LL had already recorded a vicious response to Canibus’ original rhyme. And while he kept Canibus on the track, he essentially dissed his up-and-coming guest on the same song. Later, LL would rationalize the move by saying no one would have known whom the bars were directed at if Canibus kept the matter quiet.

That obviously didn’t happen, and in addition to some dope, themed visuals from director Diane Martel, listeners not only got the initial “4,3,2,1” battle but also the added bonus of “2nd Round K.O.” LL’s “The Ripper Is Back” and even Wyclef’s “What’s ‘Clef Got To Do With It.”

The song “4,3,2,1” spawned one of the first heated battles after the deaths of Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac temporarily made a lot of people too scared to battle at all. Of course, the irony is that B.I.G. and ‘Pac’s deaths sparked dozens of collaborations from coast to coast—likely including “4,3,2,1.” It’s hard to believe one compliment could set off so much.

“He couldn’t see what was in my heart,” Canibus later added. “If anything, he should have took that as flattery.”


  • kobashi

    Bis Killed the original track. 97-99 Canibus was the illist rapper around. Nobody was anywhere near him! "Then I'll attack you with words thats absurd And rip your fcuking skin off, just to get on your nerves" Bis won the battle no doubt, LL was an idiot for thinking Bis dissed him. The truth is that LL used Bis as a way to get some credibilty back.

  • Nico 3

    He Ain't That Dope Yeah, what a loser LL has become. A top ten TV show and dozens of movies later.

  • RTJ00

    Bis lyrically merked this fool!

  • He aint that dope!

    Canibus shit ALL OVER LL! I don't give a fuck, quit putting the pussy on a pedestal. LL has not improved his flow or lyrics since the 90's. It's still the simple one word rhymes and talking bout bitches he loves. Everyone inside the industry knows he's a fucking pre-madonna prissy bitch. The man may have laid down some classics in his day but stop trying to validate how dope he with ill joints from back in the day. Don't judge him by what he has done but what he's doing now. For real, the last LL record I can think of that was any good was called "Queens" and that's only cause KOOL G RAP was on it. Other than that, the man is highly overrated. Humble & raw LL Cool J from the late 80's > Watered down, arrogant, and never artistically grew as an MC present day Cool J.

  • Anonymous

    "Ask Canibus he aint understanding this/ Casue 99% of his fan don't exist" -LL Cool J "Return of Jack the Ripper"

  • Anonymous

    Tru, agreed mr. Burgess

  • Nico 3

    Regardless of all the factors behind Canibus never amounting to anything, he totally stirred Cool J up, and IMO, that cost Canibus his confidence, which probably then cost him access to various producers. I don't care how lyrical you claim to be. You don't come at a vet, mentioning his kids, and then expect your career to soar.

  • 504yadig

    @illbomb....KRS did say that but i disagree with him. I didn't and still don't see a problem with what canibus said. He changed his verse LL didn't but I don't think anyone would have known about it back in '97.... As far as canibus joining the army he did join the army after two albums came out..."2000 B.C." and "Mic Club". While he was in the army he put out "Rip the Jacka"....

    • illbomb

      as adults we can agree to disagree. i believe it was disrespectful wanting to take a mic off a vet and borrow it. regardless of the point back in 97 no one would of known what it was all about if, correct me if i am wrong, but i think it was steve stoute who started spreading the rumor. imagine if there never was this drama.... all of you would be sitting here saying what a dope track and LL ripped it, but because of one idiot it was blown out of the water. it wass LL track he can do what he wants. Canibus made 2 shitty albums which all of his so called fans bought, goes to the army makes one song and what. my point still stands. shut the fuck up and just make music and stop complaining about shit. if yopu haven't worked out that in this world you need to earn your shit by now then your obviously not very intelligent and will never make it. Canibus is a lyrical beast but needs to stfu and just make music now and give hisso called fans what they want. stop the beefing shit just rap.

  • L-Boogie

    Jay-z brags about his longevity in the game but he ain't on LL's level when it comes to that.

  • mr718

    This was when you actually needed to know how to rhyme in order to be called a rapper/mc... This was when Hip Hop was Hip Hop... The internet and the youth ruined the Hip Hop Culture smh...

  • blaqonline

    Rasta Imposta LL's real diss to Canibus and Wyclef

  • Beezlebud

    After the bitchassness of this article towards someone who has done more for the culture than the entire HHDX staff combined ever will I'm done wit this site HHDX= WHATS WRONG WIT HIP HOP TODAY

  • hip hop

    Canibus>>LL Cool Gay real talk, bis smashes LL lyrically. all day bis is better

    • Real Music

      He Sure did! Nobody can stop BIS

    • Martin Røste


    • dockevoc

      'Mama Said Knock you Out' album (produced entirely by the Marly Marl, someone canibus obviously has no interest in since he makes fire beats) > bis's life

    • Anonymous

      fuck outta here LL has PROVED he's 100000xs more versatile than Canibus I love Canibus but far as bein a well rounded artist he's not on LLs level at all, LLs CREATED new rap styles every MC uses today Canibus hasn't, LLs made hot songs in dozens of different deliveries Canibus hasn't, LLs made dozens of classic songs in dozens of styles street tracks, battle tracks, chick tracks, radio friendly, club tracks, drivin tracks Canibus hasn't Canibus is one of the illest to crush a beat but as an artist LL>>>Canibus

  • Nico 3

    Canibus could have clarified what he meant with that line and just let it go. His decision to spar with a veteran cost him a career.

    • dockevoc

      canibus's inability to craft a listenable album is what cost him his career, it just happens to coincide with the battle (for the record, Canibus won the battle by a MILE)

  • bluerazor

    Hip Hop's great past!!!

  • Malik

    Hip Hop's collective memory has completely forgotten that Master P's verse was also taken off, for good reason. That always makes me laugh every time I listen to/think of this track. Makes me sad that LL stopped going in like this for damn near a decade before he faded out of hip hop and into acting.

  • r.pgh

    Canibus killed every verse he was on back then. I wish he still had that style instead of going off the deep end with the alien and computer talk.

  • CM BK

    Word Canibus Killed it. "niggas wanna act fly get shot down with surface to air missiles" had to be the hardest line for a long time. LL did a bitch move, should have let the young 'Bis praise him on the track.

    • dockevoc

      yet somehow they do exist...deep in the nerdy internet blog realm where geeks are afraid of actual 'songs' that have real beats and choruses and have chosen a king of monotonous flows and horrifyingly boring beats to lead them to the astronomy section of the local library - canibus!

    • Anonymous

      99% of your fans don't exist - LL = Gameover

    • Anonymous

      "I kick the shit that real nigga feel/while 99% of your fans wear high heels" THAT was the classic line right there!

  • Louie

    LL did pull some shady shit on this track, but that does little to spoil canibus' verse. One of the sickest lines ever "I'm the illest nigga alive watch me prove it, I'll snatch your crown with your head still attached to it" canibus in 97 was on top of his shit.

  • DaddysHome

    LL forever tarnished his legacy with this. Quite possibly one of the biggest bitch moves in hiphop history.

    • dockevoc

      damn illbomb you're the first knowledgeable head i've seen on this whole fucking site - props!

    • Anonymous

      Word on the hhdx bias shit sites pathetic...

    • illbomb

      like KRS said, the kid was asking for the mic of a well known seasoned veteran. if you ask me that's a little disrespectful. LL earned that shit. what has Canibus done....? bitch move? it's only a bitch move because while Canibus may have won that initial battle, he lost the war and veryone is cut because he turned out to be nothing. i was a fan of Canibus but all he does is complain. (diss song at DJ Premier?). yes i am also a fan of LL and he was the reason i started listening to hip hop back in 91. i also agree that his career started going downhill after the "G.O.A.T." album. "exit 13" was way to late in offering it to the fans. i will also say this HHDX is bias as well. you gave "exit 13" album a rating of 1 while you gave his previous albums, which were rubbish compared to it, like 2.5 to 3.5 stars. it's obvious these guys don't like LL so which ever. i will say this though. nothing was stop Canibus to have a career in the rap game. there was always the underground scene but he opted to go to the army. now he comes back and complains about being black balled by everyone. how bout keep your mouth shut and just make music. a lot of artisits have gone independent and making a living. or is it because he wants to be a part of the industry?.... oh and "99% of his fans don't exist"

    • nixnox


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