LL Cool J (short for ladies love cool James) is known as one of the forefathers of pop rap. He has released 13 studio albums and two greatest hits compilations. His twelfth album Exit 13 (2008), was his last for his long-tenured deal with Def Jam Recordings.
In 2010, VH1 considered him to be on their “100 Greatest Artists Of All Time” list.
LL Cool J has also appeared in numerous films, including In Too Deep, Any Given Sunday, S.W.A.T., Mindhunters, and Edison.
He currently stars in an action role as NCIS Special Agent Sam Hanna, on the CBS crime drama television series NCIS: Los Angeles. LL Cool J is also the host of Lip Sync Battle on Spike.
LL Cool J was born James Todd Smith on January 14, 1968, in Bay Shore, New York, the son of Ondrea Griffeth (born January 19, 1946) and James Louis Smith, Jr.
When LL was just 4 years old, his father shot his maternal grandfather in the stomach and his mother in the back out of frustration over their divorce. Both survived their injuries, and LL forgave his father, although he was reluctant to let him back into his life initially. LL said “My family is a very interesting family. My mother forgave my father… He came back into my life and made amends for a lot of things by helping to guide me with my music career early on, and kinda helping me in that area. My father made a massive blunder, but he also did a lot of things right.”
He began rapping at age 9 and was influenced by hip-hop group The Treacherous Three.
In March 1984, when NYU student Rick Rubin and promoter-manager Russell Simmons founded the then-independent Def Jam label, 16-year-old Hollis, Queens-native James Todd Smith was creating demo tapes in his grandparents’ home.
His grandfather, a jazz saxophonist, bought him $2,000 worth of equipment, including two turntables, an audio mixer and an amplifier.
In a VH1 documentary (Planet Rock: the Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation), LL Cool J, at 14 years of age, revealed that he initially wanted to call himself J-Ski but did not want to associate his stage name with the cocaine culture (the rappers who use “Ski” or “Blow” as part of their stage name e.g., Kurtis Blow, Joeski Love were associated with the rise of the cocaine culture as depicted in the 1983 remake of Scarface).
Under his new stage name, LL Cool J, Smith was signed by Def Jam, which led to the release of his first official record, the 12-inch single “I Need a Beat” (1984)
LL is now 49, and worth $100 million, and now the muscles that made women swoon in the 90’s have faded, and things are cruisy for LL Cool J. Check out LL Cool J – Paradise featuring Amerie below.