LL Cool J
The notorious Queens bred rapper known as “LL Cool J” was born James Todd Smith on January 14th, 1968. LL Cool J’s name stands for Ladies Love Cool James and this spoke to the natural versatility within his rap styles. LL is universally known for his hard-hitting and energetic rhymes in songs such as “I’m Bad” and for his romantic style (influenced by Big Daddy Kane) that birthed hit songs such as “Hey Lover” and “I Need Love”. The legendary Philadelphia based musician Questlove actually revealed in a recent documentary (Planet Rock: The Story of Hip-Hop and the Crack Generation) that LL Cool J originally planned to call himself “J-Ski”. Instead he would change it to LL Cool J because he didn’t want to be associated with "skiing" which was an alias for doing Cocaine during this time. LL Cool J’s skill came from constant practice in his craft as he had already been rapping for seven years when at the age of sixteen he was gifted his first set of DJ equipment by his grandfather. Utilizing this equipment and his top-notch skills as an MC, he produced and promoted his demos to local New York record labels. In 1984, New York University students Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin would sign LL Cool J to their newly founded record label Def Jam Recordings.
Using Def Jam as a platform, he would release his first 12" single hit named, "I Need A Beat" later that year (1984). This track illuminated LL's insane rhymes and energy over a classic boom bap musical landscape. LL Cool J would drop out of high school to record his first album after this single sold over 100,000 copies which would simultaneously legitimize both LL Cool J as an artist & Def Jam Recordings as a label. LL's debut album, "Radio" was received very well out the gate and beyond as it sold over 500,000 copies within the first five months of its release. The album housed hit singles, "I Can't Live Without My Radio" & "Rock The Bells". The two tracks would indefinitely become staple Hip-Hop songs. LL Cool J's sophomore effort, "Bigger and Deffer" would also be a commercial success due to LL channeling his "romantic" rap style that appealed to the women with the crossover ballad, "I Need Love". His uncanny ability to make his music accessible was one of his best and worst traits as an artist because some his crossover music would not commercially sell well or fit in with the musical landscape during the early 1990's. As a result his third album, "Walking With A Panther" would be successful commercially but would also raise the eyebrows of LL Cool J's Hip-Hop contemporaries on his credibility (1989). LL heard and felt all the hate coming towards him and would respond in amazing fashion by releasing the hardest album he ever made in "Mama Said Knock You Out" (1990). This album would solidify LL as a rap and pop superstar alike with hardcore hits like "The Boomin' System" & pop singles such as "Around The Way Girl". This album would be LL's best selling effort as it would proceed to sell over 2 million copies and be certified a double platinum album.
Overtime LL Cool J would use this superstardom to jumpstart his acting career in movies and TV shows alike. As the 2000's progressed, LL would transition to appealing to the ladies even more in his music with romantic but smooth tracks such as "Hush" & "Love You Better". Regardless of his questionable track with Brad Paisley,"Accidental Racist", LL will always be one of Hip-Hop's greats due to his legendary contributions to the culture.
Peep LL's classic music below!