Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
It’s hard to believe, but Mama Said Knock You Out by LL Cool J is fast approaching its 25th anniversary. Even harder to believe, LL Cool J is still in his 40’s for a few more years. In 1990, LL Cool J was trying to figure out his place in the hip hop community. 1989’s Walking With a Panther had been a commercial success, but a critical failure. Even worse, LL Cool J’s peers were critical of the “softer” love ballads that peppered the album. LL discussed his plight with his Grandmother – lamenting the rise of gangsta rap and his insecurity in light of harsh words from several up and coming rappers. His Grandma replied “Oh baby, just knock them out!”, which fueled the inspiration for the title track from his 1990 record, Mama Said Knock You Out. Raw and aggressive, the song is a an absolute classic. In some ways, it is an updated version of LL’s 1987 single I’m Bad. LL Cool J spits out the words as if he is being chased by the Devil himself, the music equally frantic. Samples scattered throughout the song are courtesy of James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, and the Chicago Gangsters. As if this song wasn’t impressive enough coming from a seasoned 22-year-old music veteran, LL Cool J delivered a performance on MTV Unplugged that managed to outdo the studio cut. The immortal words “Don’t call it a comeback / I been here for years” still bring me joy to this day. The song hit #17 on the US charts and earned Todd Smith aka LL Cool J a Grammy.