Feb 14

LL COOL J – “Ain’t Nobody”

Popular40 comments • 3,923 views

#759, 8th February 1997

Aint_Nobody A chart where singles sales are front-loaded to the first week is a chart that rewards fanbases, which is nothing to be worried about. Except the conveyor belt system keeps working even when there’s no fanbase hits to fill it. We’re now at a point where something is likely to go straight in at Number One whenever a previous record loses its grip – it doesn’t have to be hugely anticipated, it just has to be sitting there, discounted, in the new release racks.

The record labels aren’t quite as good at playing this game yet as they will be. For instance, it’s pretty obvious nobody else realised Blur was going to come back with a record like “Beetlebum”, because the biggest new entries in what would have been its second week are this and The Orb’s “Toxygene”. So “Ain’t Nobody” gets to the top because of lucky timing, and because it’s a cover of a reasonably well-liked song from a reasonably well-attended movie by a reasonably well-known act.

Ladies Love Cool James (for it is he) will always have a higher critical profile for his 80s work, but Britain came late to hip-hop, and the teenage tunnel-vision brutalism of the early Rick Rubin singles – “Radio” or “I’m Bad” – never found a mass audience here. Nor did the glorious “Mama Said Knock You Out”. He was better-liked by Brits for the loverman hip-hop he pioneered – the saucer-eyed hypersincerity of “I Feel Love” shaped UK expectations of him, and here he is, with a romantic rap for Valentine’s Day (a glance at the sleeve suggests this was not an angle marketers pursued).

“Ain’t Nobody” fit LL Cool J’s brand well enough, but it’s nowhere near his strongest record. In fact it feels lazy, in execution and concept. LL’s raps are a wave of the hand towards a general notion of seduction – “passionate interludes and such” – marking time before the song gets to the chorus, as if he knows as well as we do it’s the strongest part of the record. And it is – it carries the entire track – but the satisfied delight of “Ain’t Nobody” is undermined when it feels so unearned. LL is never skeevy, just bland – he only sounds awake in the closing ad libs, offering hokey advice and sex tips.

The song also has nothing at all to do with the film it’s tied to. This, as much as getting a good LL Cool J track to Number One, feels like a missed opportunity. If there was ever a show to justify a “Living Doll” style novelty record – or at least a novelty video – it’s Beavis And Butthead. It would have been extremely hard to get right – to move the pair’s toxic, hilarious a-cultural impulses into a song rather than leaving them impotently outside it – but the attempt would have been more interesting than this.



1 2 All
  1. 26
    Fivelongdays on 10 Feb 2014 #

    ‘it just has to be sitting there, discounted, in the new release racks’

    Uhhuhuhhuhhuhhuhhuhhuhhuh…you said ‘racks’

  2. 27
    Fivelongdays on 10 Feb 2014 #


    This is a perfectly perfunctory version of a decent enough song, and because it’s not quite my thing, I’ll give it four. I can’t help but think that, were I a fan of hip-hop, it might have got an extra point or two on the grounds of “blimey! It’s LL Cool J at Number One!”

    Beavis and Butthead, though…ahhh, for any provincial teenager who liked Rock music in the fallow years between Cobain’s suicide and something kinda bunnyable, they were great. I rather liked the ‘plot’ bits of their shows, but it’s the videos that stand out.

    The one’s I remember best were:

    “Creep” by Radiohead (If you didn’t have the part that sucked, you wouldn’t have the cool bit)

    “Mouth For War” by Pantera (The only thing cooler than bands who get chicks are bands that scare chicks).

    “November Spawned a Monster” by Morrissey (Quit whining, you wuss).

    Some unknown country track (Country music’s cool when it’s about drinking whiskey and kicking ass).

    I loved the film, saw it with a couple of mates in the cinema when it came out. Contrary to the metalhead/rocker stereotype (which we kinda knew B&B perpetuated but we didn’t care), the 15-year-olds turned into an engineer, a reporter (albeit casual) for a national newspaper and a Cambridge graduate who does something that no one really understands, but makes him a shedload.

    Only slightly odd thing about this as the soundtrack’s lead off single – B&B liked rap, but they would’ve possibly turned it over in favour of something more rocking.

    @25 – If Satan had placed a couple of places higher, then the ‘Dance Music Doesn’t Have To Be Shit’ Trilogy of ’96 would’ve been the ‘Dance Music Doesn’t Have To Be Shit’ Quadrilogy (is that the right word?) of ’96/’97…but then (I think) we wouldn’t have ever had Your Woman at number one…and that one meant something.

  3. 28
    Steve Mannion on 10 Feb 2014 #

    Loved ‘Toxygene’ and how high it charted (and the ‘Orblivion’ album – not exactly new from them but I was a bit older and could appreciate their ambient stuff more at that point). Nice comfy chairs in the TOTP performance of it too. Minor claim to fame in that Alex Paterson included my mash-up of it with Eminem’s ‘Without Me’ in his DJ sets a few years later.

  4. 29
    punctum on 10 Feb 2014 #

    You would have thought that the obvious big hit single from the soundtrack of Beavis And Butthead Do America would have been the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Love Rollercoaster” with its seemingly irresistible B-side of Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Lesbian Seagull,” but while that did well enough, the now nearly forgotten biggest hit from the film turned out to be L.L.’s equivalent of “My Ding-A-Ling.” Just as the Light Programme of the fifties avoided Chuck Berry like the plague, and the Ohio Players’ original “Love Rollercoaster” – an American number one – flopped completely in a Britain more intent on sending drivel like “Barbados” and “Combine Harvester” to the top, so “Rock The Bells,” a literal beginning of time and perhaps the loudest such in pop since “Maybelline,” was ignored by most of our radio stations and nearly all of the music press. The first two L.L. Cool J. albums – Radio (1985) and Bigger And Deffer (1987) – remain touchstones for nearly all of the hip hop that followed and still sound raw and revolutionary today. Thereafter he became rap’s Van Morrison, issuing endless streams of largely indifferent records out of which you could make a highly listenable seventy-minute CD, though Mama Said Knock You Out (1990), 14 Shots To The Dome (1993) and 10 (2002) all have their moments of iridescent brilliance.

    “Ain’t Nobody” was his flat take on the old Rufus standard and inaugurated one of the more regrettable trends of Popular 1997; eighties karaoke rap, familiar hits with inoffensive but urgent-sounding platitudes hollered in a rush to reassure a slowly ageing audience scared by those new-fangled Wu-Tang fellows (yet another imbalance which TPL will put right). Remarks such as “throw your butterscotch body beneath the red light” indicate that I will never be the right kind of listener for this sort of thing, no matter how proudly L.L. cites “When Doves Cry” or The Road Less Travelled; the number one-ensuring hook of “You can take it girl, stop runnin’, uh” inspires many adjectives in my mind, none of which is “forgivable.” When he belches out the line “I’ll give you a full plunge, uhhhhhhh,” I have sudden visions of Robin Askwith in Confessions Of A Plumber (and if there is no such film, then there oughtn’t to have been one). The closing “I Feel For You” parody is akin to rubbing sulphuric acid into the wound. At least “My Ding-A-Ling” was both good humoured and funny. Business as usual with Popular 1997, then; when the number ones are good, they are very good indeed – but when they are bad, they are truly diabolical. I had to listen to “Go Cut Creator Go” six times in a row afterwards to cleanse my soul, and learn about dignity, and, um, stuff.

  5. 30
    Alan not logged in on 10 Feb 2014 #

    blimey, I do NOT remember Satan doing so well in the chart. (UK #3!) odd. perhaps I was way later coming round to Orbital than I now tell myself I was – or just off them (and majorly on Underworld). Certainly I owned green-yellow/brown but didn’t hugely take to InSides (which most fans rate highly)

  6. 31
    ciaran on 10 Feb 2014 #

    Other than the chorus I had no recollection of this at all and even after 1 play a few minutes ago I’m struggling to remember it.

    A very dull chart-topper.Not fit to lace Chaka Khans boots. LL Cool J and his Mr, Loverman act here is not endearing in the slightest. 4 is about right.

    Phenomenom would have been a far more interesting Number 1.

    The only thing that stands out is what looks like Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – the bunny will be looking for his memory eraser) in the video.They did a lightweight sitcom called ‘In the House’ in the late 90s which was shown a fair bit over here and that I suppose is my lasting memory of LL Cool J and David Baddiel claiming that LL was short for Lionel Lionel!

    Havent heard much of the early work except for ‘I Need Love’ which is ok. I know Tom also had “Mama Said Knock You Out” on the best hits of the 90s. His later stuff like ‘Control Myself’ with J Lo was terrible.

    #29 Rap’s Van Morrison – Brilliant!

  7. 32
    thefatgit on 10 Feb 2014 #

    Well, I took a look at the video, and I spotted “Carlton” and there’s a Wayans (which one, I’m not sure) in there as well. If he was going for African-American sitcom stars goofing off at the water park, he missed a trick by not including Bill Cosby (in all fairness, Bill was too classy for this kind of video anyway). Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell were probably too young for this ride.

  8. 33
    Mark M on 10 Feb 2014 #

    I have no clear memory of this at all. I was still mostly writing about hip-hop at this time, but LL was a distant irrelevance to the state of the art at the time – you could count about six or seven eras of the genre that fit in the time between his blazing arrival* and this… My favourite single of his remains Going Back To Cali. There have been occasional bright moments in later years (unlike Ciaran, I like Control Myself).

    *Rock The Bells and Go Cut Creator Go are awesome in themselves, but also educational for people who didn’t realise the link between Jay-Z’s 99 Problems and hip-hop history.

  9. 34
    Cumbrian on 10 Feb 2014 #

    The original is better than decent and this doesn’t rise to that level – simply waiting for the chorus to come to its rescue all the way around the verses. Shame it wasn’t Mama Said Knock You Out – but LL Cool J is hardly the first, nor will he be the last, artist to get to the top with a work markedly inferior to his career highlights.

    Re: “you can take it girl, stop running” – not very smart but at least there is gumption enough present on the track, for the female voice to answer “say what?”, as if to question just why someone who it is claimed the ladies love, would say something quite so crass at best, threatening at worst.

  10. 35
    anto on 10 Feb 2014 #

    #18 – I feel something similar about the much-covered ‘You Got The Love’. Each time I ask myself, do I really want to hear another version of this huffing, puffing repetitive drag of a non-song, and now Coca-Cola have got a kiddies choir to sing it, great!

  11. 36
    23 Daves on 10 Feb 2014 #

    #27 That was the view expressed by a couple of my (hip-hop loving) friends, actually.

    “LL Cool J’s at number one!”
    “Yes, but the single’s not very good, is it?”
    “But, but… you don’t understand! LL Cool J’s at number one!”

    I never heard them play this in their cars or at parties, and I’m sure they still don’t – but a hip-hop pioneer reaching the top of the singles chart was important to them. It felt correct (They’d respond a lot more enthusiastically to another bunnyable track).

    I had to go on to YouTube to remind myself of how his version of this went (never a good sign) and after twenty seconds or so it clicked with me. It was on the radio relatively frequently back in the first half of ’97, and I think still gets irregular airplay now, but there’s nothing in LL Cool J’s approach to leave you firmly remembering anything except the chorus, which had already been handled better beforehand anyway. It’s not a bad record in that it doesn’t have you running towards the ‘stop’ button, but there’s no real reason for it to exist.

  12. 37
    Billy Hicks on 10 Feb 2014 #

    #35 – I have a love/hate relationship with You Got The Love. I think there’s only one truly brilliant version of it, and sorry to the purists but for me it’s the 1997 mix. The original ’91 mix is too minimal for my tastes (to be fair it’s essentially just a mashup of an old vocal with an old early house track), the 2006 re-remix is just a slightly subdued and inferior version of the ’97 mix…and then there’s Florence’s version which I *really* hate, which took a promising solo act (her first album is excellent) and began her descent into cheesy, commercial chart-friendly bollocks. Seeing her cavort around in videos to a pounding Calvin Harris beat a few years later seemed like such a waste of an initially brilliant talent, an act who started off sounding completely different to anything else in the charts ending up sounding exactly the same as everything else. See also D***** R***** in about a decade’s time. Also it annoys me how a whole generation now think it’s a Florence original, similar to Ellie Goulding’s (not bunnied!) Your Song a year later.

    But the 1997 Now Voyager mix is glorious, the only one that properly takes that epic vocal and gives it a backing to be proud of.

  13. 38
    Garry on 11 Feb 2014 #

    #24 Tom – I’d give at least a cursory listen to both their recent albums with Dave Gilmour and Lee Perry. The collaborators give the Orb some focus which has been missing for a while – plus you can tell they had heaps of fun making them.

    I especially enjoyed the Gilmour one. In my mind it’s a confirmation of the big influence on ambient by the many strands of 70s prog rock in general and Pink Floyd in particular.

    (I’ve always found Banca De Gaia’s Big Men Cry album sound like a love song to Floyd.)

  14. 39
    Garry on 11 Feb 2014 #

    I just listened to Aint Nobody and it doesn’t register in my memory at all.

    I do remember my hatred of Beavis and Buthead but fans I knew soon put it away once it was replaced by South Park as the unorthodox/edgy/whatever animation of choice. Even I watched South Park.

  15. 40
    swanstep on 11 Feb 2014 #

    Living with ‘Ain’t Nobody’ for a few more days (and taking the opportunity to listen to a lot more LL Cool J), it hasn’t worn well. I therefore want to retract my ‘6’ score at #10 and to concur with Tom’s:

1 2 All

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page