Friday, July 28, 2017

Certain Songs #943: LL Cool J – “Mama Said Knock You Out” | Medialoper

Album: Mama Said Knock You Out
Year: 1990

You could call “Mama Said Knock You Out” several things: a top 20 single; the title track to LL Cool J’s most consistent album; proof that he could combine hardness with maturity; and one of my top 5 favorite hip-hop songs.

But, of course, there’s one thing that you absolutely shouldn’t call “Mama Said Knock You Out:”

Don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years
I’m rocking my peers
Puttin’ suckers in fear
Makin’ the tears rain down like a monsoon
Listen to the bass go boom
Explosions, overpowerin’
Over the competition I’m towerin’

Riding the “Funky Drummer” break from start-to-finish, “Mama Said Knock You Out” was a pure blast of adrenaline that could have devolved into parody — LL Cool J was hardly going to be mistaken for a gangsta — but instead got across on the strength LL Cool J’s half-angry half-amused flow and the absolute monster hook.

I’m gonna knock you out (huuuuah!)
Mama said knock you out (huuuuah!)
I’m gonna knock you out (huuuuah!)
Mama said knock you out (huuuuah!)
I’m gonna knock you out (huuuuah!)
Mama said knock you out (huuuuah!)
I’m gonna knock you out (huuuuah!)
Mama said knock you out (huuuuah!)

It was that chorus — an almost instant meme — that got me. At that point, I only really knew LL Cool J’s singles, and the last one I’d paid a lot of attention to was “Goin’ Back to Cali.” And in fact, Mama Said Knock You Out was the first of his albums I bought, and after digging into it and discovering other songs I loved like “Eat ‘Em Up L Chill” and “6 Minutes of Pleasure,” I was inspired to go out and get the rest of his catalog.

All because of a single song.

A quarter-century later, “Mama Said Knock You Out” still slays, with Marley Marl’s production pushing LL Cool J to ever crazier heights. He might start out shadowboxing, but soon he’s got a shotgun in his hand, and he’s a maniac psycho who’s gathered his crew and they might just bomb a town. Get down!

Of course, you never thought for one second that LL Cool J was going to bomb a town: even at his hardest, he wasn’t as revolutionary as Chuck D or streetwise as Ices-T & Cube, but it just didn’t matter. Like Mick Jagger in “Street Fighting Man,” LL Cool J was playing a part, and succeeded because he was just so damn good at what he was doing.

Knock you out!

“Mama Said Knock You Out”

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