LL Cool J: His Career Then & Now

LL Cool J at the Pre-GRAMMY Gala and GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Clarence Avant, Beverly Hills, 2019

2. August 2019 - 13:30 Uhr / Laura Pérez

LL Cool J has been in show business since the 1980's. His professional career includes major achievements as a rapper, presenter, actor and producer, and he has been considered one of the most talented hip-hop artists of all time.

You probably know him as LL Cool J, but his real name is James Todd Smith and he was born in 1968 in New York. He is better known for his work as a rapper and has also built his professional career as a record producer, actor, author, and businessman. As of 2019, LL Cool J has released 13 studio albums and 2 compilations, and has appeared in several films and television shows. The fact that he has been around since the decade of the 1980's makes him not only a true hip-hop legend but also one of the greatest artists of all time. 

LL Cool J at the 28th Annual American Music Awards, Los Angeles, 2001

LL Cool J: His Life During the 1980's

LL Cool J was and -still is- so passionate about music that he released his first album Radio when he was only 17 years old in 1985. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, the album sold 500,000 copies in its first five months and more than 1 million by 1988, eventually earning platinum status. LL Cool J had such success at that time that he started to perform alongside old-school hip-hop legends like Run-D.M.C. and Beastie Boys.

LL Cool J: His Big Breakthrough

Only two years after his big breakthrough LL Cool J released his second album Bigger and Deffer which is still considered to be one of his biggest-selling career albums, having sold more than 2 million copies in the United States; it remained at number 1 on Billboard's R&B albums chart for 11 consecutive weeks. In 1989 he released his third album Walking with a Panther which unfortunately was not as successful as his first two, since some fans considered that it was "too commercial and superficial" and also a bit "pop-oriented".

LL Cool J arrives for the traditional Clive Davis party on the eve of the 61th Annual Grammy Awards in Beverly Hills, 2019

What did LL Cool J do in the 1990's?

It seems that LL Cool J really knew how to deal with the critics he got after Walking with a Panther and also knew exactly what to do to prove that he was still one of the greatest artists. 1990 was the year that marked a turning point in LL Cool J's career when he released his fourth studio album Mama Said Knock You Outwhich went double platinum selling more than two million copies, and which is still considered to be one of his all-time greatest works which showed to the audience his ability to remain in show business as one of the most talented hip-hop artists. Mama Said Knock You Out earned him a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1992, and solidified his career by getting the status of a true hip-hop icon. During the 1990's he released three more albums 14 Shots to the Dome (1993), Mr. Smith (1995), and Phenomenon (1997), and earned 5 more Grammy nominations, winning one for Best Rap Solo Performance for his single Hey Lover in 1997.

LL Cool J at the MCM Rodeo Drive Store Grand Opening Event, Beverly Hills, 2019

2000's: A new era for LL Cool J

It seems that LL Cool J's career has only reached high peaks. In 2000 he released G.O.A.T. which is still considered his greatest album of all time; it debuted number 1 on the Billboard charts and also went platinum. In 2002 he released 10 which included songs produced by Pharrell Williams and a collaboration with Jennifer Lopez, and which -again- went platinum. Then he released The DEFinition in 2004 and Todd Smith in 2006, during the 2000's he collaborated with other hip-hop artists like 112 and Ginuwine. Two years later he released Exit 13 his final album with Def Jam Recordings, the only label he has ever been signed to. During the 2000's he toured alongside Janet Jackson.

2010-present: What is LL Cool J doing now?

In 2013 the rapper released his thirteenth and most recent album Authentic where he collaborated with Van Halen's lead singer Eddie Van Halen. One year later he announced the release of his 14th album, however, he put in on hold explaining that although he believed it was a good production, he didn't feel like it was ready yet. However, during the 2010's and as of 2019, LL Cool J has been working on different projects that include his participation as host of the Grammy Awards for five consecutive years, from 2012 to 2016. Since 2015 he has hosted the American musical reality competition television series Lip Sync Battlealongside Chrissy Teigen. Also since 2009 he has been playing the role of "Sam Hanna" in NCIS: Los AngelesIn 2016 the rapper got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 2018 he was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Simone Smith and LL COOL J at the Pre-GRAMMY Gala and GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Clarence Avant, Beverly Hills, 2019

The hip-hop icon LL Cool J in five sentences

-The only job he had besides being an artist was as a paper boy

-One of his best friends is Queen Latifah

-Most of the time he appears in public he wears a hat

-He got married to Simone Smith in 1995 and he has four children, three girls and one boy

-In 1985 LL Cool J wrote and performed the first ever rap love song I Need Love