LL Cool J

LL Cool J Biography.com

Film Actor, Actor, Television Actor, Rapper(1968–)
Hip-hop artist and actor LL Cool J made it big with Def Jam Records in the late 1980s and '90s with albums like Mama Said Knock You Out.

Synopsis

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. After a string of hits—included on albums like Bigger and Deffer, Walking with a Panther, Mama Said Knock You Out, 14 Shots to the Dome, Mr. Smith—LL turned to acting, appearing in movies like B.A.P.S., Halloween H2O and Any Given Sunday.

Early Life

Hip-hop artist, author and actor LL Cool J was born James Todd Smith on January 14, 1968, in Bay Shore, Long Island, New York. Growing up in New York City, Smith adopted the stage name LL Cool J, which stands for "Ladies Love Cool James." The outgoing teen signed to Def Jam records in 1984, which was a fledgling rap label at the time, founded by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin. LL released the hit "I Need a Beat" soon after, which sold more than 100,000 copies.

Musician, Writer and Actor

The young artist left school to record his debut album, Radio, which was a hugely successful mix of conventional song structure and pop-oriented rap. Music fans responded enthusiastically to the album's singles, "I Can't Live Without My Radio" and "Rock the Bells," and bought more than one million copies of the recording. He appeared as himself in the feature film Krush Groove (1985) around this time, which was a fictionalized version of the early days of Def Jam. The members of RUN D.M.C., Fat Boys, and New Edition also appeared in the film. His first speaking role was a small part in the 1986 high school football comedy, Wildcats.

In his follow-up album, 1987's Bigger and Deffer, LL Cool J showed his softer side with the popular ballad, "I Need Love." The song became a hit on both the rap and pop charts. Two years later, he was back on the charts with his album Walking with a Panther.

It was his fourth album, Mama Said Knock You Out (1990), however, that became his biggest seller to date. Projecting a tougher, more "street" persona, LL Cool J won over new fans with the title track. The single was as popular in middle America as it was in the urban environs of his youth. For the song, LL won his first Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. The album also featured the successful ballad "Around the Way Girl" and the straight-forward rap "The Boomin' System."

After stumbling with 1993's "gangsta" style 14 Shots to the Dome, LL Cool J played up his sexy image with 1995's Mr. Smith. The explicit single "Doin' It" featured a duet with rapper LeShaun. Another hit from the album, the romantic slow jam "Hey Lover" won a Grammy Award for best rap solo performance.

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.

Juggling his music and acting projects, LL Cool J released G.O.A.T. in 2000, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. He then starred in the 2001 family drama, Kingdom Come, with Jada Pinkett Smith and Vivica A. Fox. Proving he was truly multi-talented, LL also authored a children's book, And the Winner Is, which was published in 2002. Still, he never abandoned his music. In 2003, he released 10, which featured a duet with Jennifer Lopez. He then released The DEFinition the following year.

LL continued to thrive as an actor, starring opposite Gabrielle Union in the 2003 romantic comedy Deliver Us From Eva. Taking on grittier fare, he also appeared in Michael Mann's big-budget action flick S.W.A.T (2003), with Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell. He then took on the lead role in the 2005 crime drama Mindhunters, in which he played a FBI profiler-in-training.

 Around this time, LL Cool J continued to enjoy great musical success. He released The DEFinition in 2004, which featured the hit single "Headsprung." LL soon shared the secrets behind his remarkable physique. He co-authored the 2006 fitness book LL Cool J's Platinum Workout: Sculpt Your Best Body Ever with Hollywood's Fittest Star.

Also in 2006, he starred in the romantic comedy Last Holiday opposite Queen Latifah, which made more than $38 million at the box office. LL also had a starring role in the 2007 independent crime thriller Slow Burn with Ray Liotta.

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 in the criminal drama NCIS: Los Angeles opposite Chris O'Donnell, a spin-off from the hit series NCIS starring Mark Harmon. O'Donnell and LL Cool J play Navy investigators out to solve military-related crimes. The show was heralded as the most popular new drama of the fall television season.

Outside of music and acting, LL Cool J has explored many business opportunities. He launched a clothing line, FUBU (For Us, By Us) in 1996. In 2008, he signed a deal with Sears to design and sell a reasonably priced clothing line for families.

Recent Projects

In 2013, LL Cool J put out the album, Authentic. He worked with a number of musical talents on the record, including Bootsy Collins, Eddie Van Halen and Chuck D. That same year, LL had a role in the boxing drama Grudge Match with Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro. He has also a thriving career as a host. He has emceed the Grammy Awards for several years. In 2015, LL became the host of the popular celebrity competition Lip Sync Battle

LL Cool J received special recognition for his many talents in 2016. That January, he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. LL told NBC News that 

Personal Life

LL Cool J has been married to wife Simone since 1995. They have four children together.

The entertainer made headlines in August 2012, when he broke the nose and jaw of a suspected burglar at his home in Studio City, Los Angeles. According to media reports, LL Cool J had been home, upstairs, when he heard sounds coming from the first-level of his home. Upon investigating the noise, the suspect reportedly became aggressive with LL, and a physical fight ensued between the two men. According to reports, LL managed to overtake the suspect—who was later hospitalized for his injuries—and hold him down until police arrived.

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