When I was 15 and in science class and the kid who smoked and crashed a car that wasnt his to crash suggested that I check out LL Cool J’s ‘Headsprung’, I was in a position to be arguing with the advice. In fact, never one to get particularly caught up in questions of image, social capital and the like (if anything I usually had the wrong answers), I wouldn’t have listened to what this chainsmoking kid, who, in retrospect, looked remarkably like a rat, had to say if it weren’t for his proven track record of backing winners. Just like a good drug dealer (which he may have been) and his client (which I definitely wasn’t), when he recommended a new Nate Dogg joint, some 2pac classic or anything in the realm of what I considered at the time to be hardcore rap (that being anything outside the top 40) he was usually on point. Whatever his lifestyle proclivities, guy had some serious taste when it came to heavy rap.
LL Cool J, for as long as I can remember, has been more memorable as a film and TV actor (CSI:L.A. anyone?) than as a musician of note. Sure, ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ and ‘I Can’t Live Without My Radio’ off 1985 debut and titular tribute to the transistor are smashing good songs but at the same time, coming out of that hazy ether in which exists all popular culture released before my birth, they sounded almost hilariously dated, even back in innocent 2004. As such, I approached ‘Headsprung’ with considerable excitement given that I knew vaguely of LL’s historical significance and was at that point of the mind that Timbaland was the single greatest hip-hop producer on the face of the earth.
Hardly disappointed, then. ‘Headsprung’ gives you about a second to acclimatize to LL’s macho tone before dirty synths explode on the scene. If broken down into stems, I think you’d find that those very synths are actually pretty weak, conforming to the ‘synthetic’ definition too much, but Timbaland’s talent lies in never really affording you the luxury of trying to separate the underpinnings of his tracks. Instead, bolstered by more, breathy Aaliyah style synths, some meaty handclaps for percussion and the sort of verbal asides that have come to characterise the big man’s work from Missy Elliot to Justin Timberlake to The Rapture, you are aurally assaulted for the track’s four minute duration so that by the end of it, discovering just exactly what ‘headsprung’ means is no longer a major concern. (In case it is, it has something to do with either a) getting drunk or b) getting crunk – urban dictionary you have failed me). In essence, it is this stirring sense of cohesion that leaves the most lasting impression. ‘Headsprung’ might not excel lyrically – basically thematically concerned with getting drunk and/or crunk in the club – but it sounds so serious that just what’s being spat ceases to matter. Timbaland has always had a great ability to put together an atmosphere on his tracks and that’s what we get here. The kind of atmosphere that sounds exotic and exciting enough to get a 14 year old white kid hooked.
LL Cool J – ‘Headsprung’
[audio:https://1songday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Headsprung.mp3|titles=LL Cool J - 'Headsprung']