LL Cool J
|LL Cool J|
LL Cool J performs in Milwaukee, 2013.
|Birth name||James Todd Smith
January 14, 1968
Bay Shore, New York, United States
|Also known as||L.L. Cool J|
|Labels||429 Records, Def Jam, Violator, S-BRO|
|Associated acts||Z-Trip, L.A. Posse, Def Squad, Timbaland, Young MC, DMX, 50 Cent, Method Man|
James Todd Smith (born January 14, 1968), better known as LL Cool J (short for Ladies Love Cool James), is an American rapper, entrepreneur, and actor. He is known for pioneering hip-hop tracks such as "I Can't Live Without My Radio", "I'm Bad", "The Boomin' System", "Rock The Bells", and "Mama Said Knock You Out" as well as romantic ballads such as "I Need Love", "Around the Way Girl", and "Hey Lover". He has released thirteen studio albums and two greatest hits compilations, including 2008's Exit 13, the last for his record deal with Def Jam Recordings. His latest album, Authentic, was released on April 30, 2013. He has also appeared in numerous films, including Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, and currently stars as NCIS Special Agent Sam Hanna on the CBS crime drama television series NCIS: Los Angeles.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 3 Acting career
- 4 Other works and venture
- 5 Political involvement
- 6 Discography
- 7 Television and filmography
- 8 Awards and nominations
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In March 1984, when NYU student Rick Rubin and promoter-manager Russell Simmons founded the then-independent Def Jam label, 16 year–old St. Albans, Queens native James Todd Smith was creating demo tapes in his grandparents' home. His grandfather, a jazz saxophonist, purchased him $ 2,000 worth of stereo equipment, including two turntables, an audio mixer and an amplifier. Smith later discussed his childhood background and rapping, stating that "By the time I got that equipment, I was already a rapper. In this neighborhood, the kids grow up in rap. It's like speaking Spanish if you grow up in an all-Spanish house. I got into it when I was about 9, and since then all I wanted was to make a record and hear it on the radio." By using the mixing table he had received from his grandfather, Smith produced and mixed his own demos and sent them to various record companies throughout New York City, including Simmons' and Rubin's own Def Jam Recordings.
Under his new stage name, LL Cool J (an acronym for Ladies Love Cool James), 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). The single was a hard-hitting, streetwise b-boy song with spare beats and ballistic rhymes. Smith later discussed his search for a label, stating "I sent my demo to many different companies, but it was Def Jam where I found my home." That same year, Smith made his professional debut concert performance at Manhattan Center High School. In a later interview, LL Cool J recalled the experience, stating "They pushed the lunch room tables together and me and my DJ, Cut Creator, started playing. ... As soon as it was over there were girls screaming and asking for autographs. Right then and there I said 'This is what I want to do'." LL's debut single sold over 100,000 copies and helped establish both Def Jam as a label and Smith as a rapper. The commercial success of "I Need a Beat", along with the Beastie Boys's single "Rock Hard" (1984), helped lead Def Jam to a distribution deal with Columbia Records the following year.
Radio was released to critical acclaim, both for production innovation and LL's powerful rap. Released November 18, 1985, on Def Jam Recordings in the United States, Radio earned a significant amount of commercial success and sales for a hip hop record at the time. Shortly after its release, the album sold over 500,000 copies in its first five months, eventually selling over 1 million copies by 1988, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Radio peaked at number 6 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and at number 46 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It entered the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart on December 28, 1985, and remained there for forty-seven weeks, while also entering the Pop Albums chart on January 11, 1986. Radio remained on the chart for thirty-eight weeks. By 1989, the album had earned platinum status from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), after earning a gold certification in the United States on April 14, 1986, with sales exceeding one million copies. "I Can't Live Without My Radio" and "Rock the Bells" were singles that helped the album go platinum. It eventually reached 1,500,000 in US sales.
With the breakthrough success of his hit single "I Need a Beat" and the Radio LP, LL Cool J became one of the first hip-hop acts to achieve mainstream success along with Kurtis Blow and Run-D.M.C.. Gigs at larger venues were offered to LL as he would join the 1986-'87 Raising Hell tour, opening for Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys. Another milestone of LL's popularity was his appearance on American Bandstand as the first hip hop act on the show.
The album's success also helped in contributing to Rick Rubin's credibility and repertoire as a record producer. Radio, along with Raising Hell (1986) and Licensed to Ill (1986), would form a trilogy of New York City-based, Rubin-helmed albums that helped to diversify hip-hop. Rubin's production credit on the back cover reads "REDUCED BY RICK RUBIN", referring to his minimalist production style, which gave the album its stripped-down and gritty sound. This style would serve as one of Rubin's production trademarks and would have a great impact on future hip-hop productions. Rubin's early hip hop production work, before his exit from Def Jam to Los Angeles, helped solidify his legacy as a hip hop pioneer and establish his reputation in the music industry.
Breakthrough and success (1987-1990)
LL Cool J's second album was 1987's Bigger and Deffer, which was produced by DJ Pooh. This stands as his biggest-selling career album, having sold in excess of three million copies in the United States alone. It spent 11 weeks at #1 on Billboard's R&B albums chart. It also reached #3 on the Billboard's Pop albums chart. The album featured the singles "I'm Bad", the revolutionary "I Need Love" - L L's first #1 R&B and Top 40 hit, "Bristol Hotel", and "Go Cut Creator Go". LL Cool J's third album was 1989's Walking with a Panther. Released in 1989, the album was a commercial success, with several charting singles ("Going Back to Cali," "I'm That Type of Guy," "Jingling Baby," "Big Ole Butt," and "One Shot at Love"). The album however was often criticized by the hip-hop community as being too commercial and materialistic, and for focusing too much on love ballads. According to Billboard, the album peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200 and was LL Cool J's second #1 R&B Album where it spent four weeks.
While the previous album Bigger and Deffer, which was a big success, was produced by The L.A. Posse (at the time consisting of Dwayne Simon, Darryl Pierce and, according to himself the most important for crafting the sound of the LP, Bobby "Bobcat" Erving), Dwayne Simon was the only one left willing to work on producing Walking with a Panther. Bobcat said he wanted more money for the album after realizing how much of a success the previous album really had become but Def Jam refused to change the contract which made him leave Cool J. According to Bobcat this is the reason that Walking with a Panther was met with very mixed reception at the time of its release.
As an answer to people saying that his music had become too soft due to the inclusion of several ballads on his previous album, LL Cool J released Mama Said Knock You Out. The album was originally intended for a collaboration with the Beatles and Jim Brown (former running back of the Cleveland Browns). The album was fully produced by Juice Crew producer Marley Marl, one of the premier producers in the hip-hop industry at the time. Mama Said Knock You Out contained three singles, "The Boomin' System", "Around the Way Girl", and the title track, which he performed during an episode of MTV Unplugged. It was also featured in the film The Hard Way. The diss track "To Da Break Of Dawn," aimed at such foes as MC Hammer, Kool Moe Dee, and Ice-T, was also on the album. The album went on to sell over 2,700,000 copies.
Continued success and career prominence (1993-2005)
After acting in The Hard Way and Toys, LL Cool J released 14 Shots to the Dome. The album had three singles ("How I'm Comin'", "Back Seat" and the strangely titled "Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag Getting Crushed by Buildings") and guest-featured labelmates Lords of the Underground on "NFA-No Frontin' Allowed". The album went gold.
LL Cool J starred in In the House, an NBC sitcom, before releasing Mr. Smith (1995), which went on to sell over two million copies. Its singles included "Doin' It" (that samples "My Jamaican Guy" by Grace Jones) and "Loungin" (that samples "Who Do You Love?" by Bernard Wright). Another of the album's singles, "Hey Lover", featured Boyz II Men sampling Michael Jackson's "The Lady in My Life," which eventually became one of the first hip-hop music videos to air on VH1. The song also earned him a Grammy Award. Yet another single from the album, "I Shot Ya Remix", included vocal work by Foxy Brown. In 1996, Def Jam released this "greatest hits" package, offering a good summary of Cool J's career, from the relentless minimalism of early hits such as "Rock the Bells" to the smooth-talking braggadocio that followed. Classic albums including Bigger and Deffer and Mama Said Knock You Out are well represented here. In 1997, he released the album Phenomenon. The singles included "Phenomenon" and "Father". The official second single from Phenomenon was "4, 3, 2, 1," which featured Method Man, Redman & Master P and introduced DMX and Canibus.
In 2000, LL Cool J released the album G.O.A.T., which stood for the "greatest of all time." It debuted at number one on the Billboard album charts, and went platinum. LL Cool J thanked Canibus in the liner notes of the album, "for the inspiration". LL Cool J's next album 10 from 2002, was his 9th studio (10th overall including his greatest hits compilation All World), and included the singles "Paradise" (featuring Amerie), "Luv U Better", produced by Pharrell and The Neptunes and the 2003 Jennifer Lopez duet, "All I Have". The album reached platinum status. LL Cool J's 10th album The DEFinition was released on August 31, 2004. The album debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts. Production came from Timbaland, 7 Aurelius, R. Kelly, and others. The lead single was the Timbaland-produced "Headsprung", which peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. The second single was the 7 Aurelius–produced, "Hush", which peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Later career and touring (2006-2012)
LL Cool J's 11th album, Todd Smith, was released on April 11, 2006. It includes collaborations with 112, Ginuwine, Juelz Santana, Teairra Mari and Freeway. The first single was the Jermaine Dupri-produced "Control Myself" featuring Jennifer Lopez. They shot the video for "Control Myself" on January 2, 2006 at Sony Studios, New York. The second video, directed by Hype Williams, was "Freeze" featuring Lyfe Jennings.
In July 2006, LL Cool J announced details about his final album with Def Jam Recordings, the only label he has ever been signed to. The album is titled Exit 13. The album was originally scheduled to be executively produced by fellow Queens rapper 50 Cent. Exit 13 was originally slated for a fall 2006 release, however, after a 2-year delay, it was released September 9, 2008 without 50 Cent as the executive producer. Tracks that the two worked on were leaked to the internet and some of the tracks produced with 50 made it to Exit 13. LL Cool J partnered with DJ Kay Slay to release a mixtape called "The Return of the G.O.A.T.". It was the first mixtape of his 24-year career and includes freestyling by LL Cool J in addition to other rappers giving their renditions of his songs. A track entitled "Hi Haterz" was leaked onto the internet on June 1, 2008. The song contains LL Cool J rapping over the instrumental to Maino's "Hi Hater". He toured with Janet Jackson on her Rock Witchu tour, only playing in Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, and Kansas City. In September 2009, LL Cool J released a song about the NCIS TV series. It is a single and is available on iTunes. The new track is based on his experiences playing special agent Sam Hanna. "This song is the musical interpretation of what I felt after meeting with NCIS agents, experienced Marines and Navy SEALs," LL Cool J said. "It represents the collective energy in the room. I was so inspired I wrote the song on set."
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. Both artists have promised future collaborations down the road, with LL Cool J calling the duo "organic" 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" 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.
In June 2012, LL Cool J began work on his thirteenth studio album. Stating, "I'm going to be doing a little bit of the album on the [My Connect Studio], make sure that it is official."
On October 6, 2012, LL Cool J drops a new single for his upcoming album titled Authentic Hip-Hop called "Ratchet". On November 3, 2012, LL Cool J collaborates with the elegant and smooth Joe and producers Trackmasters with his 2nd single, "Take It".
LL Cool J was host to the 2013 Grammy Awards on February 10.
While LL Cool J first appeared as a rapper in the movie Krush Groove (performing "I Can't Live Without My Radio"), his first acting part was a small role in a high school football movie called Wildcats. He continued to pursue acting, landing the role of Captain Patrick Zevo in the 1992 film Toys in which he shared the silver screen with Robin Williams. In 1995, he landed his own television sitcom, In the House. He starred as an ex-Oakland Raiders running back who finds himself in financial difficulties and is forced to rent part of his home out to a single mother and her two children.
In 1998, he had a role in the film Halloween H20. In 1999's Deep Blue Sea, he played the wise-cracking cook on a top-secret sea base besieged by genetically enhanced sharks. He received rave reviews for his role as Dwayne Gittens, an underworld boss, nicknamed "God" in In Too Deep. Later that year, he had a starring role in Any Given Sunday, in which he played Julian Washington, the talented but selfish running back on the dysfunctional Miami Sharks. Since then, LL Cool J has appeared in a variety of films, such as the 2002 remake of Rollerball, Deliver Us from Eva, Mindhunters, and S.W.A.T.
He also guest starred on 30 Rock in the 2007 episode "The Source Awards" as the hip-hop producer Ridiculous, who Tracy Jordan fears is going to kill him.
LL Cool J appeared in Sesame Street's 39th season where he introduced the word of the day, "Unanimous", in episode 4169 (Sept. 22, 2008) and performing "The Addition Expedition" in episode 4172 (Sept. 30, 2008).
LL Cool J is currently a series regular on the CBS police procedural NCIS: Los Angeles, a spin-off of NCIS (which itself is a spin-off of the naval legal drama JAG). He portrays NCIS Special Agent Sam Hanna, an ex–Navy SEAL who is fluent in Arabic and an expert on West Asian culture. The series debuted in autumn of 2009, but the characters were introduced in an April 2009 crossover episode on the parent show.
LL Cool J appeared in a cameo role, where he is credited with being the product lead of Google's Gmail Tap, an April Fool's Day joke launched by the Gmail team, purporting to bring a Morse Code keyboard to the platform.
Other works and venture
LL Cool J worked behind the scenes with the mid-1980s hip-hop sportswear line TROOP.
LL Cool J launched a clothing line (called "Todd Smith"). The brand produces popular urban apparel. Designs include influences from LL's lyrics and tattoos, as well as from other icons in the hip-hop community.
LL Cool J has written four books, including 1998's I Make My Own Rules, an autobiography cowritten with Karen Hunter. His second book was the children-oriented book called And The Winner Is... published in 2002. In 2006, LL Cool J and his personal trainer, Dave "Scooter" Honig, wrote a fitness book titled The Platinum Workout. His fourth book, LL Cool J (Hip-Hop Stars) was cowritten in 2007 with hip-hop historian Dustin Shekell and Public Enemy's Chuck D.
Businessman and entrepreneur
LL Cool J started his own businesses in the music industry such as the music label in 1993 called P.O.G. (Power Of God) and formed the company Rock The Bells to produce music. With the Rock The Bells label, he had artists such as Amyth,[unreliable source?] Smokeman, Natice, Chantel Jones and Simone Starks. Rock the Bells Records was also responsible for the Deep Blue Sea soundtrack for the 1999 movie of the same name. Rufus "Scola" Waller was also signed to the label, but was released when the label folded.
LL Cool J founded and launched Boomdizzle.com, a record label / social networking site launched in September 2008. The website accepts music uploads from aspiring artists, primarily from the hip-hop genre, and the site's users rate songs through contests, voting, and other community events.
In 2002, LL Cool J supported Republican Governor of New York George Pataki's bid for a third term. In 2003, LL Cool J appeared before a senate committee hearing on P2P file-sharing, voicing his support alongside the RIAA, expressing that he just wished "music could be downloaded legitimately." He has also voiced his support for New York State Senator Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, during an appearance on the senator's local television show and has worked with Smith in putting on the annual Jump and Ball Tournament (since 2003) in the rapper's childhood neighborhood of St. Albans, Queens. In a February 10, 2012 televised interview with CNN host Piers Morgan, LL Cool J expressed sympathy for President Barack Obama and ascribed negative impressions of his leadership to Republican obstruction designed to "make it look like you have a coordination problem." He was quick to add that no one "should assume that I'm a Democrat either. I'm an Independent, you know?" In LL Cool J's Platinum 360 Diet and Lifestyle, he included Barack Obama in a list of "People I admire" saying, "He accomplished what people thought was impossible."
His song Mr President on his album Exit 13 questioned the rationale for the Iraq War, and also expressed sympathy with illegal immigrants.
- Radio (1985)
- Bigger and Deffer (1987)
- Walking with a Panther (1989)
- Mama Said Knock You Out (1990)
- 14 Shots to the Dome (1993)
- Mr. Smith (1995)
- Phenomenon (1997)
- G.O.A.T. (2000)
- 10 (2002)
- The DEFinition (2004)
- Todd Smith (2006)
- Exit 13 (2008)
- Authentic (2013)
Television and filmography
|1991||The Hard Way||Detective Billy, NYPD|
|1992||Toys||Captain Patrick Zevo|
|1993||The Adventures of Pete & Pete||Pete's Teacher|
|1995||Out-of-Sync||Jason St. Julian|
|1995–1999||In The House||Marion Hill|
|1996||The Right To Remain Silent||Charles Red Taylor|
|1998||Halloween H20: 20 Years Later||Ronald "Ronny" Jones|
|1999||Deep Blue Sea||Sherman "Preacher" Dudley||His first movie with Samuel L. Jackson and Renny Harlin|
|1999||In Too Deep||Dwayne Keith "God" Gittens|
|1999||Any Given Sunday||Julian "J-Man" Washington|
|2000||Charlie's Angels||Mr. Jones|
|2001||Kingdom Come||Ray Bud Slocumb|
|2003||Deliver Us from Eva||Raymond "Ray" Adams|
|2003||S.W.A.T.||Officer Deacon "Deke" Kaye||Second movie with Samuel L. Jackson|
|2004||Mindhunters||Gabe Jensen||Second movie with Renny Harlin|
|2005||Edison||Officer Rafe Deed|
|2005||Slow Burn||Luther Pinks|
|2006||Last Holiday||Sean Williams|
|2007||The Man||Manny Baxter|
|2008||The Deal||Bobby Mason|
|2009||WWII in HD||Shelby Westbrook||Voice|
|2009||NCIS||Special Agent Sam Hanna||2 episodes|
|2009–present||NCIS: Los Angeles||Special Agent Sam Hanna|
|2009–2011||The Electric Company||Himself|
|2012||Hawaii Five-0||Special Agent Sam Hanna||Episode: "Pa Make Loa"|
|2012||54th Annual Grammy Awards||Host||TV Special|
|2013||55th Annual Grammy Awards||Host||TV Special|
|2013||Grudge Match||Frankie Brite|
|2014||56th Annual Grammy Awards||Host||TV Special|
Awards and nominations
||This section of a biography of a living person does not include any references or sources. (April 2013)|
|1989||"Going Back To Cali"||Best Rap Performance||Nominated|
|1992||"Mama Said Knock You Out"||Best Rap Solo Performance||Won|
|1994||"Stand By Your Man"||Nominated|
|1997||Mr. Smith||Best Rap Album||Nominated|
|1998||"Ain't Nobody"||Best Rap Solo Performance||Nominated|
|2004||"Luv U Better"||Best Rap/Sung Collaboration||Nominated|
|2005||The DEFinition||Best Rap Album||Nominated|
|1991||"Mama Said Knock You Out"||Best Rap Video||Won|
|Best Cinematography in a Video||Nominated|
|1996||"Doin' It"||Best Rap Video||Nominated|
|1997||N/A||Video Vanguard Award||Won|
- 1996 – Best Rap Artist, for "Mr. Smith"
- 1997 – Best Rap Artist, for "Mr. Smith"
- 2001 – Outstanding Hip-Hop/Rap Artist, for "G.O.A.T."
- 2003 – Outstanding Male Artist
- 1987 – Soul Train Music Award for Best Rap - Single for "I Need Love"
- 2003 – Quincy Jones Award, for "outstanding career achievements in the field of entertainment"
- 2000 – "Favorite Supporting Actor – Action" from Deep Blue Sea
The New York Music Awards
- 15 New York Music Awards
- 10 Soul Train Awards
- 1 Billboard Award
Rock The Vote Award
- 1997 – "Patrick Lippert Award"'
- 2003 – Source Foundation Image Award, for "his community work"
- 2007 – Inducted as part of the Inaugural Class of Inductees for his contribution to Long Island's rich musical heritage
- 2011 – Honored with the I Am Hip Hop Award for his contributions to hip-hop culture
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- Freedman, Pete. "SXSW Interview: LL Cool J and Z-Trip Talk About Their Collaboration, Their High Esteem For The Hip-Hop "Blueprint" and Their Thoughts On Rap's Up-And-Coming Talent.". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- Lowe, Zane. "Hottest Record - Kasabian - Days Are Forgotten (LL Cool J Remix)". BBC. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- JP DelaCuesta (2012-06-26). "AHH Stray News: LL Cool J Working On New Album; Childish Gambino Announces Mixtape Date; Romeo In Talks To Join "Hunger Games" Sequel". AllHipHop.com. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- Horowitz, Steven J. (2013-02-14). "LL Cool J Announces "Authentic" Release Date & Tracklist | Get The Latest Hip Hop News, Rap News & Hip Hop Album Sales". HipHop DX. Retrieved 2013-05-02.
- "Nirvana, Kiss, Hall and Oates Nominated for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame". Rolling Stone. October 16, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
- IMDb – Toys (1992)
- [dead link]
- "Todd Smith by LL Cool J". Toddsmithny.com. December 29, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
- "LL Cool J Todd Smith Clothing Collection Launch and Video". Celebrity Clothing Line. March 14, 2008. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
- "Amyth". Hiponline.com. January 5, 2008. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
- "SCOLA". Music.blackplanet.com. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
- "Press Release". Boomdizzle. July 15, 2008. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
- Katz, Celeste (September 27, 2002). "Cool J comes out for Pataki – New York Daily News". Articles.nydailynews.com. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- Katie Dean (October 1, 2003). "Rappers in Disharmony on P2P". Wired. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- "Senator Malcolm Smith Show w. LL Cool J part 3". YouTube. January 2, 2008. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- . "One On 1: Hip-Hop Artist LL Cool J Leaves Footprints Beyond Music". NY1.com. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- "CNN.com - Transcripts". Transcripts.cnn.com. Retrieved 2013-05-02.
- LL Cool J with Dave Honig, Chris Palmer & Jim Stoppani; LL Cool J's Platinum 360 Diet and Lifestyle: A Full-Circle Guide to Developing Your Mind, Body, and Soul, page 14, Rodale, 2010
- "WWII in HD DVD Set | WW2 HD DVD – History Channel". Shop.history.com. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
- Bierly, Mandi (February 25, 2009). "'NCIS' spinoff officially lands LL Cool J". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 25, 2009.
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