Born James Todd Smith on Long Island, New York, on January 14, 1968, LL Cool J is a nickname that stands for “Ladies Love Cool James.” LL Cool J signed to fledgling hip-hop label Def Jam Records in 1984.
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Over his 30-year-long career, LL Cool J (nee James Todd Smith) put Def Jam on his back and helped define what a rapper looks like – both in personality and longevity in the rap game. Previously, LL had a dramatic and critically acclaimed performance on the second season premiere of FOX’s hit drama House.” He also guest starred on the NBC comedy 30 Rock” in a memorable performance as hip hop mogul ‘Ridiculous’.
Recent legal documents obtained by The Blast revealed that the judge sided in the rapper’s favor, granting LL a default judgment against the company. Just like the single I need a Beat, the album adhered to the b-boy style of hip hop lyrics. The rap is filled with boasting, while also exploring themes such as inner city struggles and sex.
LL Cool J, whose real name is James Todd Smith, is the host of Lip Sync Battle on Spike and star of CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles. Before that, he was one of the forefathers” of the rap industry. He has released 13 studio albums that include hits such as I Need Love, I’m Bad, Rock the Bells and Around the Way Girl. He made it to the big screen in Any Given Sunday, Deliver Us From Eva, In Too Deep and S.W.A.T.
LL was born James Todd Smith in January 1968 in Long Island, New York. An only child, he moved with his mother to Queens to escape his violent father and to live with his grandparents. In Queens, LL found himself in a vibrant music community. Music was the start of his success, and now estimates he is worth $120 million. Here’s how the successful star made his money.
With the release of his second album in 1987, Bigger and Deffer, Cool J scored with audiences across the board, helping to broaden the barriers of rap listeners. The album’s single “I Need Love” became the first rap song to top Billboard magazine’s R&B chart, and proved that rap could embrace romantic modes, even while Spin magazine called Bigger and Deffer “arguably the heaviest rock’n’roll record ever released on a major label”. As the album joined Radio in platinum territory, Cool J’s track “Going Back To Cali” for the film Less Than Zero help push that movie’s soundtrack to gold sales.
LL Cool J: I walked away from the case studies,” for lack of a better word, feeling like it’s still a moving target. I think that it really is up to the individual, it’s up to you, it’s up to your colleagues, it’s up to your family, it’s up to my colleagues, my family, to define what this cool” thing is. Because at the end of the day some people love Christian Louboutin and some people love Birkenstocks, you know what I mean? And it’s a very personal thing. Now, there is something, it seems, that is inherently cool about the idea of being an individual that can change the way the masses see things, or live, or move, or exist. I think that the question still remains. What is it? I think it’s really a case-by-case basis. It has some science, but it seems like it’s more art.
LL’s ability to intuitively combine rap and pop is his strong point, but at the same time it has cost him the respect of many rap fans who claimed he has a sold out. The successful single, “Goin’ Back to Cali,” appeared on the Less Than Zero soundtrack in 1988, further boosting his crossover popularity. In 1990 LL struck again with Mama Said Knock You Out, which marked him as a rap super-guru and pop deity. After this ascension, he starred in two movies and appeared and performed at the MTV Inaugural Ball in honor of President Clinton. He released 14 Shots to the Dome in 1993. LL returned to the studio to record the double platinum album Mr. Smith in 1995.
Caught up in the success of Mama Said Knock You Out , only two of the 14 shots LL mentions in the title of his next album, 1993’s 14 Shots To The Dome , appeared to hit their designated target – ‘Pink Cookies In A Plastic Bag Getting Crushed By Buildings’ and ‘Back Seat’. Not living up to the hype that his previous effort generated, LL, who at the time was dealing with a lot of trials and tribulations in his personal life, seemed lost. However, finding his flow once again, his teaming with production duo the Trackmasters (also known as Poke & Tone) on his next album, Mr. Smith , saw Uncle L reinvent himself once again.
James Todd Smith (born January 14, 1968 in Bay Shore, New York), better known as LL Cool J (Ladies Love Cool James), is a Grammy Award winning American rapper and actor signed to Def Jam. He has released twelve studio albums over his 27 year career, has starred in numerous feature films and currently plays Agent Sam Hanna on the hit show NCIS: Los Angeles.
The onset of the 1990s saw Cool J explore the media of film and television, both as a musician and as an actor. On the big screen, he turned in an impressive performance as an undercover cop in the drama The Hard Way in 1991, which led to a part in director Barry Levinson’s 1992 film Toys. For MTV, Cool J took part in two groundbreaking specials, both in 1991. In May, he performed acoustic versions of songs such as Mama Said Knock You Out” and Jingling Baby” for the popular series Unplugged, and was the first rap artist to do so. Shortly thereafter, he appeared in the music network’s History of Rap documentary, discussing classic rap acts like Afrika Bambaata and The Sugarhill Gang, as rap began to get the recognition it deserved as a cultural phenomenon. In addition, Cool J even was given his own television series, In The House, first shown on the NBC network, then switched to the UPN network.
LL has always been an avid philanthropist involved in numerous causes including literacy for kids as well as music and arts programs in schools. Celebrating its 13th Anniversary this year, LL’s charity Jump & Ball” – which takes place every August in his hometown of Queens, New York – aims to give back to his local community by offering a five-week athletic and team building program dedicated to bringing wholesome fun to young people.
Already a recording star, Cool J quickly proved to be a powerful live presence as well. He was invited to perform in the rap film Krush Groove, to deliver a version of his song “I Can’t Live Without My Radio.” Within the next several years, Cool J would figure prominently in several major rap tours under the Def Jam banner—the Raising Hell Tour of 1986, featuring Run DMC and the Beastie Boys , and the Def Jam Tour a year after, whose roster included Public Enemy , Eric B. and Rakim, and Whodini. “See L.L. live,” urged L.A. Times critic Robert Hilburn, “and it’s easy to understand why he is emerging as a legitimate culture hero. His confidence and way with rhymes suggest a young Mohammed Ali, but some of his stage antics are reminiscent of Prince,” he continued. With his low brimmed floppy cap and massive gold chains, Cool J’s image neatly summed up all that was “old school” rap.
I feel that any musician who’s been in the game for so long regardless of music genre, and is qualified, should be in the HOF. LL Cool J has influenced me over the years. He has positive messages and is not afraid to express his true feelings. Rap is like a parable with embellished lyrics. Music is music regardless on how you classify it.
At 16, in 1985, LL Cool J rapped about his radio, braggadocios rhymes and was considered the heir apparent in an era when Hip-Hop just began to flourish. He soon grew as an artist with the triple platinum album Bigger And Deffer and was the first rapper to record a doting ode to the ladies, “I Need Love.” Many copied the formula.
After weeks of Radio gaining more and more traction through word of mouth for over a month, the project finally entered Billboard’s Top Black Albums chart on December 28th, 1985. The overall quality of Radio helped to propel it onto the Billboard Top 200 Album charts two weeks later. Radio really began to pick up in sales as 1986 rolled around and hip-hop and rap culture began to explode. Little did either party know that they were in the midst of the birth of what is now widely regarded as the Golden Era of hip-hop. LL Cool J’s profile was raised by his onscreen performance of the signature song Football Rap (Sport Of Kings) ” in the film Wildcats that opened in February 1986.
Also, check out the original Rock The Bells version which did not appear on the Radio album. This version has LL spittin’ rhymes over 7 minutes of hard-hitting, bells-infused beats. Pure excellence. Hip-hop is notorious for short-lived careers, but LL Cool J is the inevitable exception that proves the rule.
In 2008, LL Cool J returned to music with Exit 13. “I’m not trying to be new school and I’m not old school. I’m classic,” he said, in describing his latest release to Jet magazine. Tackling the small screen, LL landed a leading role on the criminal drama NCIS: Los Angeles, alongside Chris ‘Donnell. A spinoff from the hit series NCIS, the show features ‘Donnell and LL Cool J as Navy investigators out to solve military-related crimes on the West Coast. It was heralded as the most popular new drama of the 2009 fall television season.
Not only did the streets provide Cool J with life lessons, they also became the medium in which he became engaged in rapping, at a very young age. Experimenting from age nine, Cool J was fronting local rap crews at 11 years old, and in less than two years was tinkering with recording equipment. After his grandfather bought him a two-track recorder in lieu of a dirtbike, the precocious Cool J cut his first demo tapes when only thirteen, and soon began mailing them out. When the tapes captured the attention of producers Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons , founders of the budding label Def Jam, Cool J was almost immediately locked on a track for stardom.
By the late 1990s, LL Cool J had officially crossed over to a career as a legitimate actor. He appeared in the 1997 comedy B.A.P.S., starring Halle Berry and directed by Robert Townsend, and the 1998 horror flick Halloween H2O, with Jamie Lee Curtis. In 1999’s Any Given Sunday, LL showed off his acting chops, taking on a supporting role across from such heavy-hitting stars as Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx. He starred the crime drama In Too Deep with Omar Epps and Samuel L. Jackson that same year. Also around this time, LL Cool J wrote his autobiography, I Make My Own Rules, which was published in 1997.
In March 2011 at South by Southwest , LL Cool J was revealed to be Z-Trip ‘s special guest at the Red Bull Thre3Style showcase. This marked the beginning of a creative collaboration between the rap and DJ superstars. The two took part in an interview with Carson Daly where they discussed their partnership. 38 Both artists have promised future collaborations down the road, with LL Cool J calling the duo “organic” 39 One early track to feature LL’s talents was Z-Trip’s remix of British rock act Kasabian ‘s single “Days Are Forgotten”, which was named by influential DJ Zane Lowe as his “Hottest Record In The World” 40 and received a favorable reception in both Belgium and the United Kingdom. In January 2012, the pair released the track ” Super Baller ” as a free download to celebrate the New York Giants Super Bowl victory. The two have been touring together since 2011, with future dates planned through 2012 and beyond.