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James Todd Smith (born January 14, 1968), better known as LL Cool J (an abbreviation for Ladies Love Cool James), is an American rapper, entrepreneur, and actor from Bay Shore, New York. He is known for romantic ballads such as "I Need Love", "Around the Way Girl" and "Hey Lover" as well as pioneering hip-hop such as "I Can't Live Without My Radio", "I'm Bad", "The Boomin' System", and "Mama Said Knock You Out".
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. He has also appeared in numerous films, and currently stars as NCIS Special Agent Sam Hanna on the CBS crime drama television series NCIS: Los Angeles. As he grew older, Smith found a way to escape the effects of his abuse, and his bullying attitude: hip-hop music. He fell in love with it at the age of nine, and by 11 he was writing lyrics and making his own songs with some DJ equipment his grandmother gave him to stop him riding motorcycles or doing karate. Before too long, LL was an established member of the Hip-Hop community in his area. He gained notoriety through his many rap battles against well-established MCs, including the battle against Chicken and Porn that rocketed him to fame. Influenced by Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, funk legend Rick James, Kurtis Blow, and pioneers Run-DMC, LL started to create his own rap style.
Radio (1985) Radio was released to critical acclaim, both for production innovation and LL's powerful rap. "I Can't Live Without My Radio" and "Rock the Bells" were singles that helped the album go platinum with 1,500,000 sales.
Bigger and Deffer (1987) In 1987, he released Bigger and Deffer which included "I Need Love". Also featured on the album was "Go Cut Creator Go", which pays homage to the DJ. The album sold about 2,300,000 copies. In 1998, The Source Magazine named it as one of the top 100 albums ever. "I Need Love" was the second single from LL Cool J's second album, Bigger and Deffer. The song, released in the fall of 1987, reached No. 1 on the R&B/Hip Hop charts, No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and No. 8 in the UK Singles Chart. The single won a Soul Train Music Award for Best Rap – Single in 1987. "I Need Love" was ranked No. 13 on the 100 Greatest Rap Songs.
Walking with a Panther (1989) LL Cool J's third album was 1989's Walking with a Panther. The album featured the singles "Going Back to Cali", "I'm That Type of Guy", "Jingling Baby", and "Big Ole Butt" and went platinum with 1,100,000 sales.
Mama Said Knock You Out (1990) 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 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 album went on to sell over 2,700,000 copies.
14 Shots to the Dome (1993) 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.
Mr. Smith (1995) 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.
Phenomenon (1997) 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.
G.O.A.T. (2000) 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".
10 (2002) 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 The Neptunes and the 2003 Jennifer Lopez duet, "All I Have". The album reached platinum status.
The DEFinition (2004) 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 10.
Todd Smith (2006) 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.
Exit 13 (2008) 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 rendition 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.
NCIS: No Crew Is Superior (2009) 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."
Touring and CollaborationsEdit
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.
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 1995, when 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 review 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..
In 2005, he returned to television in a guest starring role on the Fox medical drama House as a death row inmate felled by an unknown disease. LL Cool J also appeared as Queen Latifah's love interest in the 2006 movie Last Holiday.
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 ventureEdit
Fashion LL Cool J worked behind the scenes with the mid-eighties Hip-Hop sportswear line TROOP. In the mid 90's, he also helped to launch the clothing line FUBU. 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. Books LL Cool J has written four books, including 1998's I Make My Own Rules, an autobiography co-written 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, The Platinum Workout. His fourth book LL Cool J (Hip-Hop Stars) was co-written in 2007 with hip-hop historian Dustin Shekell and Public Enemy's Chuck D.
Businessman and entrepreneurEdit
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 appears in the music video "Mrs. Right" by Mindless Behavior. 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.
LL Cool J was born in Bay Shore, New York, the son of Ondrea and James Smith. He married Simone I. Johnson, on August 9, 1995 at his home in Long Island, New York. The couple have four children: son Najee Laurent Todd Eugene Smith (born September 18, 1989) and daughters Italia Anita Maria Smith (born January 1, 1991), Samaria Leah Wisdom Smith (born September 15, 1995) and Nina Simone Smith (born 2001). In 2002, he threw his support behind sitting Republican Governor of NY George Pataki's bid for a 3rd 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."
In 2004, LL Cool J was seen leaving the Republican National Convention. 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. Alban's, Queens.