Exclusive: LL COOL J Talks Reimagining ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ For the NBA In-Season Tournament Soundtrack

The iconic rapper collaborated with the legendary Roots crew on a new reimagined version of “Mama Said Knock You Out” which will be the official anthem of the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament.

2023 is shaping up to be an unforgettable year for LL COOL J. The legendary Queens rapper had been everywhere as one of Hip Hop’s most celebrated ambassadors.  He celebrated Hip Hop 50 with his second annual Rock the Bells Festival in his hometown, which drew more than 13,000 attendees, and toured the country on The F.O.R.C.E. Live Tour accompanied by The Roots.

Partnering with A&E and Ice-T, he launched  “Hip Hop Treasures,” which documents how field collectors and curators tracked down some of the culture’s most revered items to be included in the Universal Hip Hop Museum.

For his latest project, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer once again teamed up with The Roots for the “In-Season Tournament Anthem” to kick off the NBA’s In-Season Tournament.

In an exclusive interview with, LL spoke about how celebrating Hip-Hop 50 propelled him into a creative zone.

“I just decided what I wanted to do for hip hop culture was to be more of service to our culture. So to do that, I had to get out there myself,” LL said. “Whether it's going on tour, putting out a book, or working with the NBA, I just want to help elevate the culture and help move it forward.”

Also, LL announced that he’s set to release his 14th album, which is his first full-length project since 2008’s Authentic. “The FORCE,” a flaming-hot track released for the forthcoming album and produced by Q-Tip, has left the rap world with high expectations for Uncle L’s next LP.

“Creating makes life better, it makes it more exciting and I get to do what I love which is fulfilling to me,” LL said. “I get to set up other people to do what they love so, that's what it's been doing man. I finished a new album that I'm gonna put out later this year or early next year. We’re getting the visuals together. We're having a good time.”

Along with Hip-Hop Treasures, LL has expanded his role as a culture documentarian with the recent release of his latest work, LL COOL J Presents The Streets Win: 50 Years of Hip-Hop Greatness. Co-authored with acclaimed journalist Vikki Tobak and Alec Banks, editorial director of Rock The Bells, it was released in October, and it  “celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the influential culture, sound, and preeminent voices of American Hip-Hop music.”

“We've been working on the book for quite a while. It's first-person essays from some of the greatest hip-hop luminaries such as graphic artists, fashion designers, and DJs. We came up with the book and asked all these artists to contribute because 300 years from now, we want the narrative to be right about hip-hop culture,” he explained.

"Alec Banks and Vikki Tobak helped me get to these artists and they wrote their own essays all about how they feel about hip hop culture from their point of view. They wrote about why they got into it, how it changed their lives, how it influenced them, and how they influenced it. So this is a book that will be here for as long as the planet is here,” he said.

Throughout the summer and into the fall, LL has been headlining the F.O.R.C.E. (Frequencies of Real Creative Energy) TOUR. Accompanied by The Roots, the sold-out tour has been playing across the country, featuring fellow hip-hop legends such as Queen Latifah, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Roxanne Shante,  Common, Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh, MC Lyte, and many more. After performing with the Roots at the 66th Grammy Awards in February, LL knew they could curate a show on an even larger scale.

LL Cool J, The Roots Reveal Exciting Details About Upcoming Tour Via Instagram Live

“When I did the 50th-anniversary Hip-Hop celebration at the Grammys with Questlove and Black Thought, we decided that we should take the show on the road," LL recalled. "We got together with Shawn Gee of Live Nation Urban and we made it happen. We did arenas all over the country and we have one more date at the TD Garden in Boston on November 19. We had a lot of fun.”

Following the tour, LL collaborated with the Roots again to reimagine his legendary hit record “Mama Said Knock You Out,”  mashed up with the Roots’ hit “Here I Come.” The track will serve as the official anthem of the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament.

The anthem will debut on the first night of the NBA In-Season Tournament on ESPN, across all NBA social platforms, and in the NBA App.  Each night, the song will start the games of the NBA In-Season Tournament on ESPN and TNT. LL spoke about working with the NBA and how he came up with the idea to update one of his classic songs.

“I got a call from the NBA about the In-Season Tournament and they wanted me to see if I could play with “Mama Said Knock You Out.”  They asked if I could get creative and flip it in a new way,” LL said. "I called up Quest and said, ‘Yo, let's, let's flip the joint. Let's make it a little different. Let's put a little different spin on it and have some fun for the NBA."

As the first game of the In-Season Tournament is set to premiere on Friday (November 3), LL shared his excitement about working with the league and the Roots to help usher in a new era of basketball for the NBA. As expected, he believes that “Mama Said Knock You Out” was the perfect choice to bring in the inaugural tournament.

“We just wanted to create some art and that's what we did. So we’re here and it feels exciting.,” LL added. “I think people will enjoy it and I think it will be a great way to kick off the first year of the NBA In-Season Tournament.”

The In-Season Tournament kicks off on November 3, culminating in the championship game on December 9 with LL Cool J and The Roots performing the “In-Season Tournament Anthem” which will be played during each IST broadcast.

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