LL Cool J Drops ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ Album: Today in Hip-Hop
On this day, Aug. 27, in hip-hop history...
1990: LL Cool J reaffirms his status as one of the rap game’s preeminent talents with his fourth studio album.
Titled Mama Said Knock You Out, LL’s fourth LP arrived just about a year after the release of Walking With a Panther. Although the album earned commercial success, its pop-leaning tendencies also earned it a sizable dose of mixed reviews. Aided by a thumping, largely Marley Marl-produced soundscape, Mama Said Knock You Out is a project that sees LL get back to his aggressive roots (Radio) and silence his critics in the process.
Appropriately enough, the album begins with the James Brown-sampling first single, "The Boomin' System," a hardbody track that announces the intention of the project: "Just kick a little something for them cars that be bumping/Yeah, aight, but we need a beat that they can front to/Oh, that'll work, be funky/You know what I'm sayin'?"
From there, LL takes things to the pop-leaning realm with "Around the Way Girl," a song dedicated to the baddie next door. With Mary Jane Girls and Keni Burke samples (“All Night Long” and “Risin' to the Top") that are as smooth as LL's lyrics, the track would go on to earn an RIAA-certified gold plaque, reminding folks the LL could do it all.
While Mama Said Knock You Out is filled with slappers, its title track ("Mama Said Knock You Out") remains the gem. Attacking the Marley Marl-produced beat, which again, samples from a James Brown cut, LL unloads fire and fury as he slices his way into those who'd suggested he'd fallen off.
"Don't call it a comeback, I been here for years/Rocking my peers and putting suckas in fear," he raps in the song's opening lines, setting the stage for some of his most technically impressive rhymes to date.
Mama Said Knock You Out balances LL's hit-making abilities with some hardcore rhymes, and it was that balance that enabled the LP to go multi-platinum and help LL push aside any doubt that he was anything but a rap superstar. As he spits on the album’s title track, LL didn’t want the album to be called a comeback. In the eyes of fans and critics, though, it was that—and much more.
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