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HIP HOP CLASSICS: LL Cool J - Mama Said Knock You Out Album

Discussion in 'Music Forum' started by PauLo, Sep 6, 2020.

  1. PauLo

    43% Burnt

    It’s Sunday. It’s hip hop classic time. And this week, I’m handing the intro duties over to @The Lucky Moose....

    This week we’ll talk about the Marley Marl produced LL Cool J album Mama Said Knock You Out (1990), an undeniable classic and Hip Hop’s first big comeback album (don’t call it that, though), which turned 30 years old last week. If you ask me (The Lucky Moose) personally, LL Cool J has at least four classics, among which Mama Said Knock You Out is only my third favorite (my favorite would be Mr. Smith, often regarded as LL’s second comeback album). Still, it is a truly great album and, according to many, *the* LL Cool J album. I looked at the AllMusic review and thought it was worth sharing, as it pretty much sums up the appeal of the album:

    “Increasingly dismissed by hip-hop fans as an old-school relic and a slick pop sellout, LL Cool J rang in the '90s with Mama Said Knock You Out, a hard-edged artistic renaissance that became his biggest-selling album ever [it went double platinum, as did Mr. Smith]. Part of the credit is due to producer Marley Marl, whose thumping, bass-heavy sound helps LL reclaim the aggression of his early days. Mama Said Knock You Out isn't quite as hard as Radio, instead striking a balance between attitude and accessibility. But its greater variety and more layered arrangements make it LL's most listenable album, as well as keeping it in line with more contemporary sensibilities. Marl's productions on the slower tracks are smooth and soulful, but still funky; as a result, the ladies'-man side of LL's persona is the most convincing it's ever been, and his ballads don't feel sappy for arguably the first time on record. Even apart from the sympathetic musical settings, LL is at his most lyrically acrobatic, and the testosterone-fueled anthems are delivered with a force not often heard since his debut. The album's hits are a microcosm of its range -- "The Boomin' System" is a nod to bass-loving b-boys with car stereos; "Around the Way Girl" is a lush, winning ballad; and the title cut is one of the most blistering statements of purpose in hip-hop. It leaves no doubt that Mama Said Knock You Out was intended to be a tour de force, to regain LL Cool J's credibility while proving that he was still one of rap's most singular talents. It succeeded mightily, making him an across-the-board superstar and cementing his status as a rap icon beyond any doubt.“

    Also, for fun, Chris Rock’s review, who put it at #6 on his 25 best rap albums of all time list:

    “The beauty of LL's Mama Said Knock You Out is that it's like the Secret deodorant: strong enough for a man, but made for a woman. It's hard gangsta shit. But at the same time, I could put the CD on with my mother in the car and drive from New York to Philly. It's also the first comeback in rap. It's the real blueprint: if people think you're done, this is how you come back. It's one of my favorite albums ever. It's LL at his best and Marley Marl at his best. It's LL as Madonna, in the sense of Madonna saying, ‘Who's the hot producer? Let me get that person.’ LL was the first rapper smart enough to do that. Now it's what everyone does.”

    For those that enjoy the album, I also recommend finding the MTV Unplugged version, which you can read about here:

    'MTV Unplugged': The 15 Best Episodes

    Further reading:

    Why LL Cool J’s Most Famous Album Almost Never Happened

    LL Cool J on 'Mama Said Knock You Out' Turning 30 and Shunning the Phrase 'Old School'

    The Oral History of "Mama Said Knock You Out" – Rock The Bells


    @Henry to pin

    Past classics threads...

    HIP HOP CLASSICS: Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: Fugees - The Score •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: OutKast - Stankonia •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: Madvillain - Madvillainy •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: Eric B. & Rakim - Paid in Full •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: Bone Thugs-n-Harmony - E. 1999 Eternal •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: Missy Elliot - Miss E... So Addictive •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: Biz Markie - The Biz Never Sleeps •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: El-P - I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead •
    HIP HOP CLASSICS: Queen Latifah - All Hail The Queen •
    The Lucky Moose likes this.
  2. xapplexpiex

    the past is a grotesque animal Supporter

    Sweet. Excited to listen to this later. My only exposure to him is the opening to Kenan and Kel.
    riotspray likes this.
  3. The Lucky Moose

    I'm Emotional, I Hug the Block Prestigious

    That was Coolio. You might be confusing it with In Da House, LL’s sitcom.
    Sigit Himura likes this.
  4. xapplexpiex

    the past is a grotesque animal Supporter

    Yeah, my bad
    The Lucky Moose likes this.
  5. The Lucky Moose Sep 6, 2020
    (Last edited: Sep 7, 2020)
    The Lucky Moose

    I'm Emotional, I Hug the Block Prestigious

    As I wrote the intro, I don’t have that much more to say about the album. Maybe I should add that although some say it is his best album for a variety of valid reasons, it it does not feature him at his peak of his rapping yet, though the rapping is good and very varied on this. My favorite track is probably Around The Way Girl. I listen to it a lot.

    Also it’s funny that Hip Hop was so young still then that a guy in his early twenties old could be seen as an old head that needed a comeback only a few years after he changed the genre as a teenager with Radio. I always found that such an odd thing to read looking back, but it made sense at the time I guess, given how fast the genre changed in the second half of the 80s.

    LL overal was my first favorite rapper and is still in my all time top five. My favorite albums are the Mr. Smith, G.O.A.T., Mama Said Knock You Out and Radio, in that order. To me those are all classics. The Trackmasters’ produced Mr. Smith I especially recommend to anyone interested.

    Also, I made this playlist at some point, for those looking to get an overview of his career:

    It’s a chronological mix of singles, otherwise relevant songs and random songs I like.
  6. Contender

    Goodness is Nowhere Supporter

    I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a LL Cool J album before
    Sigit Himura likes this.
  7. The Lucky Moose

    I'm Emotional, I Hug the Block Prestigious

    This is exactly why we make these threads
  8. Steve_JustAGuy


    Not sure if it's my favorite LL album, but it's definitely up there for me. Title track rules so hard.
    The Lucky Moose likes this.
  9. The Lucky Moose

    I'm Emotional, I Hug the Block Prestigious

    Which others ones do you like?

    I have been talking about LL with the same two people my whole life so this is refreshing lol
  10. Steve_JustAGuy


    His first four are the best, if I'm randomly going to listen to LL Cool J, it's going to be one of those four. I recall liking GOAT, but I haven't listened to that in years. Headsprung is a banger of a song though.
    The Lucky Moose likes this.
  11. The Lucky Moose Sep 7, 2020
    (Last edited: Sep 7, 2020)
    The Lucky Moose

    I'm Emotional, I Hug the Block Prestigious

    That’s interesting. I never really seen anyone rank Bigger and Deffer and especially Walking With A Panther over Mr. Smith or G.O.A.T.

    I’ve previously said that Mr. Smith is my favorite, with G.O.A.T. coming in second, and that is generally true, though sometimes it’s the other way around. G.O.A.T. is the definitely the album I listen(ed) to the most (it being the first album I ever owned, across all genres, helps).

    Hearsprung is cool, but not on G.O.A.T. G.O.A.T. was more or less a traditional New York rap album and sometimes referred to as the third comeback album. Headsprung is on The Definition, which is a Timbaland-heavy, clubby album. That came out a few years after G.O.A.T. (and also after 10, which was Neptunes-heavy and pop-ish).

    For those interested, this is from G.O.A.T.

    From The Definition

    And 10

  12. OotyPa

    fall away

    Never fell in love, but this is a fun album I return to sometimes, especially while exercising.
  13. PauLo

    43% Burnt

    Looking forward to giving this a proper listen. I’ve only ever heard the title track.

    LL has always been someone whose singles I loved, but never gave any of his albums a proper listen until the past 12/18 months. Which is odd considering I bought both Phenomenon (which I mostly love) and G.O.A.T. when they came out haha. I only gave Radio a listen last year and I loved it. Gave half of Mr Smith a listen and didn’t grab me, need to go back to that too.
    The Lucky Moose likes this.
  14. Ghostjax


    Imma try listening to this album myself. I need to diversify my playlist. Lol
  15. mike1885

    Trusted Supporter

    Mr Smith was the only full LL album I had ever listened to. I played the hell out of the All World greatest hits when I was like 10/11 though haha.

    Listened to this for the first time yesterday. Solid album for sure. Makes me want to check out his 80s albums.
    Sigit Himura and The Lucky Moose like this.
  16. PauLo

    43% Burnt

    Yeah, this album is fucking great. L's rapping is great, but the production is so good. Marly Marl was on another level at that time.

    Can definitely seeing this getting a lot more listens.
    The Lucky Moose likes this.
  17. The Lucky Moose

    I'm Emotional, I Hug the Block Prestigious

    Hmm I’m not sure MSKYO is a gateway drug into the 80s albums (though Radio is a must-listen). Maybe check out the playlist I posted so get an overview of his sounds so to say.
    mike1885 likes this.
  18. The Lucky Moose Sep 10, 2020
    (Last edited: Sep 10, 2020)
    The Lucky Moose

    I'm Emotional, I Hug the Block Prestigious

    This is why I shared that Chris Rock quote. LL really knew what he was doing when he got Marly Marl on board at a time when people really weren’t just working with “hot producers” yet instead of people from their own camps. It’s a blueprint that would serve LL and many others well for a long time.
  19. The Lucky Moose

    I'm Emotional, I Hug the Block Prestigious

    I just noticed that two days ago was G.O.A.T.'s 20th anniversary. Crazy.
  20. PauLo

    43% Burnt

    Talking of G.O.A.T., I was listening to it yesterday for probably the first time since it came out and man, I forgot how many bangers it has. Dips in quality in the middle, but the first 6 and last 4 or 5 are damn good.
    The Lucky Moose likes this.
  21. PauLo

    43% Burnt

    I also relistened to "Mama..." within a week of first listening to it, so it's safe to say I dug it a lot haha