This is the fourth adventure in the LL Cool J series. Speaking of adventures, his previous effort (Walking With a Panther) was quite the rollercoaster ride, as Cool James attempted to satisfy everyone, which more so than not will end with mixed, if not underwhelming results, which also rings true for that effort as well. The streets were talking. Many thought LL had gotten too soft and weren’t sure if the emcee who stormed on the scene with “Radio” still had the fire within to produce quality music. With his back to the wall, LL was out to prove the world wrong. That last bit was a little overly dramatic but you get the point.
LL recruited one of the most respected hip-hip producers in the game to handle all of the production on Mama Said Knock You Out. The album was well received, both critically and commercially, as the title song earned him a Grammy for Best Rap solo, and the album went on to move over 2.5 million units, which gave Cool James enough cheese to buy his soul back from the devil.
At least, temporarily.
The Boomin’ System – By this point in his career there was absolutely no need for Cool James to waste time on an intro, and wisely he doesn’t. Instead our host jumps right into to things with a bangin’ joint dedicated to his boomin’ system (or for the ebonically challenged: his extremely loud stereo system). Marley Marl provide a sick backdrop for LL to lean back on and ride to perfection. I swear I’ve heard a mix of this song with the Heineken line unedited. If anyone has info on that, please leave proof in the comments section.
Around The Way Girl – What would an LL album be without a song dedicated to the ladies (you could argue that after Mama Said Knock You Out there wouldn’t be enough material to complete an album since the majority of his catalog after this one consisted of songs catering to his female fan base. After all, ladies love this guy). Before Mr. Smith completely sold his street cred to the pop devil, there was a time when the softer Cool James was still respected by fans with testicles. I think its safe to say this is a classic. Eventhough “I need Love” was the O.G. of love rap songs, this was definitely the more quality of the two.
Eat Em’ Up L Chill – Mr Smith waits until the third song into the album to spit that fire all the b-boys were waiting for. Marley provides a banger of an instrumental that Uncle L completely obliterates with his magical wand. Or spike.
Mr.Good Bar – Adding to his list of aliases, our host spends the length of three verses trying to get into the object of his
lust’s affection’s panties (and/or mouth). Marley’s instrumental reminds me of the one used on Kane’s “Raw”, which should come as no surprise since he produced that track as well. While LL’s rhymes and Marley’s instrumental are both technically sound, this song only registers as decent, in my opinion.
Murdergram – When your on top everybody want to knock you out. In 1990 LL was definitely a huge rap star at the pinnacle of his rap career. Over a decent Marley instrumental Mr. Smith spits a one verse wonder to remind all doubters and haters (ie Ice-T) that he still can hold his own on the microphone. The Arsenio Hall reference made me chuckle; haven’t heard that name in a long time. Well done, Cool James.
Cheesy Rat Blues – I like to refer to this one as a modern-day Job story (as in the bible character). Over three verses LL share a story of going from riches to rags and how people change during the journey. Marley’s instrumental works very well with Mr. Smith’s content. I wasn’t a huge fan of this song in the past but today it worked better than I remembered it.
Farmers Blvd. (Our Anthem) – LL gives the homies from his old neighborhood a chance to get on the mic. After he uses the first verse to explain the concept of this song, he then steps a side to let his old pals, Bomb, Big Money Grip, and Hi-C (although the liner notes list him as “HIC”, and it’s not the same Hi-C that rolled with DJ Quik’s crew) each get a verse to show the world why they never were able to establish successful careers as rappers. To add insult to injury, LL returns for the final verse and spits one of his weaker performance on the album, but it’s still sounds miles ahead of his invited guests. I’m assuming Marley knew what LL’s boys would sound like on the mic and didn’t want to waste one of his good beats on a song that would be ignored by most listeners after one listen, thus the stale instrumental provided. This was very skippable.
Mama Said Knock You Out – This is LL’s biggest hit without question, and rightfully so. While LL does a good job of “beating the beat like a skull”, Marley’s instrumental is the real star on this one (I love the eerie choir chant vocal sample spread throughout the song). Classic. If you don’t know you better ask somebody.
Milky Cereal – This might be one of the more clever song concepts in Cool James’ lengthy catalog. He spins a cereal metaphor throughout three verses describing his lady friends Frosted Flakes, Lucky Charms, and Pebbles, who each get a verse.
Jingling Baby (Remixed But Still Jingling) – The original version was included on Walking With a Panther. LL’s uses the same lyrics as the original mix but Marley’s instrumental gets a complete makeover and accomplishes exactly what a remix should:make the song sound better. Nice.
To The Break Of Dawn – Many may have forgotten (or never knew) that Mr. Smith has had quite a few beefs with his contemporaries throughout the years. Way before his feud with Canibus (or Jay-Z) LL was at war with Kool Moe Dee, Hammer, and Ice-T, and they each get a verse on this one, and each of them gets ripped a new asshole in the process (with Ice T getting the worst of his wrath as he walk away with a dook shoot the size of the Grand Canyon). LL might of lost the battle with Canibus (which is open to debate) but he definitely murdered the burnt-up french fry, his old gym teacher, and the hip-hop racoon on this one.
6 Minutes Of Pleasure – After committing three counts of premeditated murder on the previous track, Mr. Smith get back in touch with his sensitive side and provides another one for the ladies. After all, the ladies love Cool James. Marley’s instrumental was enjoyable which may or may not allow you to look past LL’s lazy rhymes on this one.
Illegal Search – This is dedicated to the po-po trying to lock a brother up out of spite and jealously. Oh, and because some of them are racists. Marley’s New-Jack swing instrumental was bearable, but LL’s smooth wordplay was the real winner on this one.
The Power Of God – Um, yeah. Nice sentiment but poor execution. And G is the 7th letter made, just in case you didn’t know.
It’s amazing to me how a chip on a man’s shoulder can bring out the best in him. Mama Said Knock You Out is without question LL’s finest hour and most complete album to date (I say this with confidence, even though I haven’t listened to any of his albums at length after 14 Shots to the Dome, but have heard enough from each of them to stand firm on that statement. I do own them all, though, so stay tuned). There are a few bumps in the road but LL’s undeniable microphone abilities coupled with Marley Marl’s chiseled production, for the majority of the journey, lessen the discomfort of the minor potholes. Kind of bitter-sweet as Mama Said Knock You Out kind of marks the beginning of the end for the hungry LL that still had street cred. When they reminisce over you, my God.