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Artist Profile: LL Cool J

Artist Profile: LL Cool J

Hip-hip is the music genre that is known for short-lived careers, but one rapper proved that he was an exception to the rule and he was LL Cool J. He was the rapper responsible for several hit albums such as “Walking with a Panther”, “ Bigger and Deffer”, “Mr. Smith”, “14 Shots to the Dome”, and “Mama Said Knock You Out” which certainly became iconic albums in the 80s music scene . Aside from being an iconic hip-hop artist, LL Cool J is also a writer and an actor. He starred in several movies such as “Halloween H20”, “B.A.P.S”, and “Any Given Sunday”. He can also be seen in the popular TV crime drama series “NCIS: Los Angeles.” LL Cool J is definitely a talented guy and he never stopped at anything to prove it to us. That’s why in this article, we are going to know more about this iconic artist.

Early Life 

Born James Todd Smith in Queens, New York on January 14, 1968, he discovered and practiced his rapping skills at the age of nine. He said that during his childhood, his biggest musical influence was the hip-hop group The Treacherous Three. When he turned 16 years old, James created his demo tapes at his grandparent’s home. His grandfather used to be a jazz saxophonist and he brought James 2,000 dollars’ worth of musical equipment which includes an amplifier, two turntables, and an audio mixer. He once said in an interview that the moment he got his hands into the musical equipment, he felt like a real rapper already. By using the equipment, James then decided to record his own solo demo tape and send it to different record companies in New York including Def Jam records. 

James Todd Smith once said in an interview that he originally wanted to call himself as J-Ski but he did not want his stage name to be associated with the cocaine culture. Back in those days, the words “Blow” or “Ski” was used by rappers as a part of their stage names and the words were often associated with the rise of cocaine culture. That’s why he decided to call himself LL Cool J which stands for Ladies Love Cool James.

After sending out demo tapes, his talents was finally discovered by Def Jam Records. In 1984, LL Cool J released his debut single entitled “I Need a Beat” which was a hard-hitting, streetwise b-boy song that has ballistic rhymes and spare beats.  That same year, LL Cool J scored his very first debut concert performance at Manhattan Center High School and after that, his single, “I Need a Beat” sold over 100,000 copies which helped establish Def Jam Records as a label and himself as an artist. 

His Career as a Musician, Actor, and Writer

In 1985, LL Cool J released his debut album entitled “Radio” which featured a successful mix of pop-oriented rap and conventional song structure. Music fans, as well as critics, all enthusiastically reacted to the album singles “Rock the Bells”, and “I Can’t Live Without My Radio.” Which made the record sold over 1 million copies. In that same year, LL Cool J, along with the members of RUN D.M.C, New Edition, and Fat Boys all appeared in the feature film entitled “Kush Groove” which tells the fictionalized version of the early days of Def Jam Records. 

In 1987, LL Cool J released his follow-up album entitled “Bigger and Deffer” and it featured a softer side of him because of the popular ballad song entitled “I Need Love.” It became an instant hit and it entered both the rap and pop charts. Two years after that, LL Cool J released another album entitled “Walking with a Panther.”

In 1990, he released his fourth album and called it “Mama Said Knock You Down” which became his best-selling album to date. It featured a more street and tougher persona of LL Cool J. He even gained new fans with the album’s title track single which became popular in middle America. He also won his first Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance because of this album. 

In 1993, LL Cool J released a more gangster themed album with “14 Shots to the Dome.” And in 1995, he showed off his sexy image with his album “Mr. Smith” which featured the explicit single entitled “Doin’ It” which he had a duet with rapper LeShaun. Another hit song “Hey Lover” which won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance came from the “Mr. Smith” album. 

In the late 1990s, LL Cool J officially decided to be a legitimate actor. In 1997, he starred in the comedy movie B.A.P.S which also starred Halle Berry. In 1998, he was in the horror movie entitled “Halloween H20” with Jamie Lee Curtis. In 1999, LL Cool J showed of his action star side when he was cast in the movie “Any Given Sunday” along with Dennis Quaid, Al Pacino, Jamie Foxx, and Cameron Diaz. Not only that, but LL Cool J also starred in the crime drama “In Too Deep” with Samuel L. Jackson and Omar Epps. He also released his own autobiography that he wrote entitled “I Make My Own Rules” which was published in 1997.

Switching his music and acting projects, LL Cool J released his album “G.O.A.T” in 2000 which became an instant chart-topper at the Billboard chart. After a year, he starred in the family drama “Kingdom Come” alongside with Vivica A. Fox and Jada Pinkett Smith. Still proving to the world that he is a multi-talented artist, LL Cool J wrote a children’s book entitled “And the Winner Is” which was released in 2002. But even after the acting and writing gigs, LL Cool J never abandoned his music. In fact, in 2003, he released his album “10” which featured a single with a duet with none other than Jennifer Lopez herself. 

He continued to be successful in his acting career, too. In 2003, LL Cool J starred opposite Gabrielle Union in the romantic comedy movie “Deliver Us From Eva.” On that same year, he starred in the action-packed movie “S.W.A.T” with Colin Farrell and Samuel L. Jackson. 

As he continues to have a thriving career as an actor, he also continued to enjoy a hefty amount of success in his musical career. He released another album in 2004 entitled “The DEFinition” that featured the hit single “Headsprung.” In 2006, LL Cool J co-authored a fitness book entitled “LL Cool J’s Platinum Workout: Sculpt Your Best Body Ever with Hollywood’s Biggest Fitness Star.”

In 2008, LL Cool J focused on his musical career again and released his album “Exit 13.” Then he eventually landed a lead role in the hit TV crime drama series “NCIS: Los Angeles” 

Other Ventures

Aside from being a successful musician and actor, LL Cool J also launched a clothing line named FUBU (For Us, By Us) in 1996. In 2008, he signed a deal with Sears which states that they will be able to sell his clothing products at a reasonable price for families. He also completed the Business of Entertainment Media and Sports program at the prestigious Harvard University.

 LL Cool J also enjoyed being a host. In fact, he hosted the Grammy Awards for several years and in 2015, he hosted a popular celebrity competition in TV called “Lip Sync Battle.” Because of his several talents and perseverance, LL Cool J received several special recognition for his talent including a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016. He was also the first rapper to be recognized at the annual Kennedy Center Honors, which is America’s highest achievement for a performer. 

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