Review #246: Mama Said Knock You Out, LL Cool J

Karla Clifton
3 min readMar 8, 2022

Review #246: Mama Said Knock You Out, LL Cool J

Don’t call it a comeback. Whatever you say, J! RS may disagree, but I respect your wishes. Besides, he was only 22 when this album was released, and five years into his professional career. You can hardly “come back” at 22.

I was really excited to get to this one because right about when I got into Eric B. & Rakim & De La Soul, I found the amazing music video for “Mama Said Knock You Out.” (Isn’t the YouTube algorithm the devil?) LL Cool J looks simultaneously intense and laid back, and hot as hell. Plus, his grandmother makes a cameo at the end — she inspired the title song, literally telling him to “knock out” anyone who said his career was tanking.

And in 1991, Cool J wasn’t exactly a hot property. His 1989 release Walking With a Panther went over like a wet fart. (Though not every song was unusable; “Jingling Baby (Remixed But Still Jingling)” is Marley Marl’s take on one of the singles.)

Even though “Mama Said” is the standout song, the Play-Over-And-Over-Again-No-Matter-How-Much-Everyone-Else-Complains song, there’s a lot to love here. Cool J may seem like someone who’s just posturing, but he’s actually quite funny and clever. See “Mr. Good Bar”: He’s smart enough to have you/and dumb enough to let you out. To say nothing of “Milky Cereal,” a sexy song about sex with more cereal puns than that Black Eyed Peas track. “Illegal Search” reminded me of reggae mixed maybe with electropop, all wrapped up in a song about police brutality. Then he goes and self-references, lamenting that I say “Nice guy,”/You call me “Mr. Goodbar.” Brilliant.

That’s to say nothing of this delicious, early-Nineties era sampling. “The Boomin’ System” and a few others riff on James Brown “Funky Drummer,” and “Around The Way Girl” twists “All Night Long” by the Mary Jane Girls into something swooningly charming. (The music video for this one is incredible, too. Those bucket hats, that warehouse, the skit at the beginning, I’m in love with LL Cool J…)

If you don’t care about any of that stuff and are just here for the rap beef, there’s plenty of that, too. “To Da Break of Dawn” gives some deft burns to Ice T, which as a Law and Order: SVU fan, I found pretty upsetting. (There’s one about T’s girlfriend at the time that is objectively offensive.) “Murdergram” is not, in fact, about a platform where you can host and like pictures about murder; it’s just a beef song. (This album predated by Instagram by 20 years, but still, it’s a funny name.)

There were only two that felt torturous that are worth noting: “Eat Em Up L Chill” has an EXTREMELY annoying chorus, and “The Power of God” is just as dull and sanitized as you are probably assuming it is.

In the end, if I’m being honest with myself, the only song I’m taking from this admittedly excellent rap album is the only one that matters. I’m gonna knock you out/UH!/Mama said knock you out!

Other Highlights: “Farmers Blvd. (Our Anthem)” isn’t about farmers at all, but about J’s hometown. “6 Minutes of Pleasure” is only four-and-a-half minutes long and that pissed me off.

Fun Fact: Run the Jewels is named after a lyric from “Cheesy Rat Blues.”

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