Nov 162020
billy ray cyrus ll cool j

And you thought 2020 couldn’t get any weirder – Cyrus family patriarch Billy Ray Cyrus just released an acoustic country cover of LL Cool J’s 1990 rap classic “Mama Said Knock You Out.” It’s the first track on his new EP The Singin’ Hills Sessions – Mojave.

We do not need the song’s opening lines – “Don’t call it a comeback” – to remind us that this is not a comeback for the once mulleted-singer. Cyrus returned to prominence in 2019 with “Old Town Road,” his duet with rapper Lil Nas X. Together, the two ripped a hole in the space-time continuum by topping the pop charts and leading a rousing line dance on the BET Awards. The hit seems to have given Cyrus the license to continue to explore his hip-hop side.

To be fair, LL’s original was always a little ridiculous. Released as the title track to his 1990 album of the same name, the song’s accompanying video was just a good excuse to show off the rapper’s buff physique. But the oft-repeated chorus “I’m gonna knock you out/Mama said knock you out” became a catchphrase in its day. The song endures as the rapper’s most-played track on Spotify.

For his cover, Cyrus reworked the hard-edged refrain into an earthy piece of country gospel. (Though what church would preach knocking one’s opponent out I have no idea.) Cyrus does his best to put a country spin on the verses, words that were lost in LL’s original. “I’ve been here for years/I’m rocking my peers/Puttin’ suckers in fear.” Sure, it’s all a little silly. Yet somehow it fits with Cyrus’ new country-rap image and lets him remind fans that he’s “just gettin’ warm.” Whatever that might mean.

Click here to listen to more LL Cool J covers.

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