Song 6: LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out” (1990)


There are many reasons this song shouldn’t work, but I think it all comes down to this: if you have to tell everybody how hard you are, you probably aren’t very hard. But “Mama Said Knock You Out” works like gangbusters, partly because of that beat (provided by superproducer and hip-hop legend Marley Marl), but mostly because LL is just so damn convincing.

LL Cool J released Mama Said Knock You Out as a response to accusations that he’d gone soft, hence the track’s famous opening line and the song’s overall feel of … overcompensating. Again, that overcompensating (“Watch me bash this beat like a skull!”) shouldn’t work, but it does. I’m not sure how to explain it. All I know is that it’s the best song in the world for running, getting ready for an exam, or, really, anything.

Now go tell Sunday who’s boss!


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