LL Cool JHip-Hop | 2008
LL Cool J—an acronym for “Ladies Love Cool James”—was born James Todd Smith in 1968 in Bay Shore and grew up in Queens. In 1984, he signed to Def Jam Recordings, which was a fledgling rap label founded by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin. The following year, LL Cool J released the hit “I Need a Beat,” which sold more than 100,000 copies. The young artist soon recorded his debut album, Radio, a mix of conventional song structure and pop-oriented rap that included the singles “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” and “Rock the Bells”; the album sold more than one million copies. In his follow-up album, 1987’s Bigger and Deffer, LL Cool J showed his softer side with the popular ballad, “I Need Love,” which became a hit on both the rap and pop charts. Two years later, he was back on the charts with his album Walking with a Panther, but it was his fourth album, Mama Said Knock You Out (1990), that became his biggest seller; the title song won LL Cool J his first of two Grammy Awards for Best Rap Solo Performance. Over the course of his career, which has included many roles in film and television, LL Cool J continues to release music, including G.O.A.T. in 2000, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart, The DEFinition in 2004, and Exit 13 in 2008. In 2017, he became the first hip-hop artist to be a Kennedy Center Honors honoree.