Another big name from the world of hip-hop emerges today, with the 4th album from LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”. Short for Ladies Love Cool James, LL Cool J has never been my favorite MC but there are some good moments on this album, which is rated #246 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The sound system gets an early test with the opening track, “The Boomin’ System”. I like this track as it is subtle and smooth LL Cool J, who we don’t always get to hear. “Around the Way Girl” sounds more like a new jack swing track, with a flowing R&B background. Something about “Eat Em Up L Chill” just really annoys me, and this song is a good representative of why I have never doubled down on LL Cool J.
“Mr. Good Bar” has a much better groove and feel to it, and “Murdergram”, “Cheesy Rat Blues” and particularly “Farmers Blvd. (Our Anthem)”, which goes into his past as an upcoming rapper, are three of the funkier grooves on the album. As my friend Morgan says, “don’t call it a comeback!”, and that stern warning bursts open the beginning of the intense and angry title track. LL Cool J was always a visual rapper who had the physique and intensity to back up his fury, and this song fits that persona perfectly. It is definitely one of the boldest highlights of the record.
The rest of the record is OK but not amazing, with the best groove emerging from “6 Minutes of Pleasure”. It has more of a pop feel and is on the smooth side of LL Cool J, but I do really like the hook and chorus. This record will never make my list of greatest hip-hop albums, as there are other MCs and production teams I prefer, but I definitely appreciate the quality of this album as a whole and understand its commercial and critical success as hip-hop presses on past its 1980s roots.