G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time)
“I don't think you should go around talking trash about people because I think that's how you get your hat handed to you. I'm good at what I do, but I wouldn't be so bold and arrogant as to say something disrespectful about, say, Eminem. He's talented and he's good at what he does.” LL Coll J.
Hip-hop pioneer and accomplished actor LL Cool J (real name James Todd Smith; LL Cool J means "Ladies Love Cool James"), who has been on Def Jam Records longer than any other artists from its start in 1985 to the present, has topped the music charts with his singles "I Can't Live Without My Radio" (1985), "I'm Bad" (1987), "I Need Love" (1987), "Going Back to Cali" (1989), "Mama Said Knock You Out" (1990), "Boomin' System" (1990), "Hey Lover" (1996), "4, 3, 2, 1" (1997) and "All I Have" (2003), among many others. He is currently working on his 13th and final album with Def Jam, titled Exit 13.
As an actor, Coll J was credited in such films as Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Deep Blue Sea (1999), In Too Deep (1999), Any Given Sunday (1999), Charlie's Angels (2000), Rollerball (2002), Deliver Us from Eva (2003), S.W.A.T. (2003), Mindhunters (2004), Slow Burn (2005) and Last Holiday (2006). He will star opposite DMX in Jim Vickers' forthcoming action/thriller film, Marble City.
On the small screen, Cool J was widely remembered as Marion Hill, a football star-turned-landlord in the NBC/UPN Emmy-nominated sitcom "In the House" (1995-1999). He will play the lead role of an undercover LAPD cop on a CBS upcoming TV series pilot from CSI creator Anthony Zuiker, The Man.
More personally, the 5'11" star who almost always wears a hat and wears one of his pant legs rolled up is a father of one boy and three girls. He has been married to Simone Smith since 1995. He once dated Kidada Jones, daughter of Quincy Jones.
"Keeping it real ain't about carrying a gun or smoking blunts. It's about being true to yourself and those around you." LL Cool J.
Childhood and Family:
"Am I James Todd Smith now or LL Cool J? Pick a name baby. Pick a name and ride with it. I don't wanna abandon my identity as LL Cool J, but at the same time, I had to figure out how to let people know that I'm really serious about making these movies. You know when you do 25 or 30 movies and people are still asking you 'how does it feel making the transition?' you know you're not communicating correctly. So I just put the James Todd Smith thing there to let people know I was serious. It's not like I made it Lawrence Cool J or something!." LL Cool J.
In the working-class neighborhood of St. Albans, Queens, New York, James Todd Smith was born on January 14, 1968 to James and Ondrea Smith. He later picked the name LL Cool J, short for Ladies Love Cool James, when he dropped out of school to pursue music. He also received nicknames Uncle L, The Future of the Funk, Nickelhead, LL, G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time), Jack the Ripper, and Mr. Smith.
Todd, as he was called, didn't enjoy a happy upbringing as a child. The only child of the family saw his own father shot his mother and grandfather at age four, but both of them survived the attack. After his parents' divorce, Todd followed his mother moved in with her parents in St. Albans for safety. His mother then began dated a young physical therapist who physically and verbally abused Todd , resulting in Todd becoming a bully himself. Fortunately, his mother eventually figure out the man's abusive behavior and immediately dumped him.
In his junior high years, Todd lived in North Babylon, Long Island, New York with his mother. Young Todd would spend his time singing in the church choir, taking part in the Boy Scouts and delivering paper as a paperboy. He later found a way to escape the effects of his abuse and his bullying attitude: toward hip-hop music.
On August 7, 1995, Cool J married long-time girlfriend Simone Smith (they had an on-and-off relationship since the late 1980s) while she was pregnant with their third child. Cool J has four children (one boy and three girls): Najee (born in 1989), Italia (born in 1990), Samaria (born in 1995), and Nina Simone (born in 2000).
"I'm happy to be black. I am what I am, I'm doing very well in my life, and I'm thankful to God for that. I am a real person that cares about his art and cares about what he's doing - I have a heart and a soul and want to touch people and give. As a black man, my hope is that I can touch more and more people all over the world of different races and different colors. And I think eventually, if I just stay on this path, we'll get there." LL Coll J.
Mama Said Knock You Out
"I think when you move past your fear and you go after your dreams wholeheartedly, you become free. Know what I'm saying? Move past the fear." LL Cool J.
Growing up in a musical family (his grandfather played tenor saxophone, his mother played accordion and his grandmother, Ellen Griffith, sang in the choir), LL Cool J found hip hop music and rap as ways of escaping his abuse and bullying problems. He had been rapping by the age of 11, joining the burgeoning New York City rap scene, and had made his first studio recording by the age of 12. By 13, he was already out on the streets selling his demos, one of which came to the hand of Rick Rubin, a student at NYU, of the then-new Def Jam Records who gave him his first big break in music. At 16 years old, Cool J had a recording deal with the upstart label and released their debut single ever, the underground hit "I Need A Beat" (1984). The record sold over 100,000 copies, establishing both the label and the rapper.
Cool J dropped his school to record his debut album, Radio, was released on November 18, 1985, when he was 17 years old. The album, which spawned singles "I Need A Beat," "I Can Give You More" (B-side: "I Can't Live Without My Radio"), "I Want You" (B-side: "Dangerous") and "Rock The Bells," was surprisingly popular for a hip-hop album in the mid-1980s, peaking at #6 and #46 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums and Billboard 200 albums charts, and was #69 on Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Best LPs of the 80s." It was ranked #478 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time in 2003. The song "I Can't Live Without My Radio" was later featured in the Cool J's movie performed in that same year, Krush Groove, director Michael Schultz's musical drama based on the early days of Def Jam Recordings and up-and-coming record producer Russell Simmons (portrayed by Blair Underwood).
Following up his newfound fame, Cool J joined the "Raising Hell" tour of 1986-1987, headlined by Run-DMC, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. He soon released his sophomore album, Bigger and Deffer, on July 1, 1987. It delivered the first commercially successful "rap ballad," "I Need Love" (#1 on the R&B/Hip Hop charts and #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts; won a Soul Train Music Award for Best Rap – Single), the single "Go Cut Creator Go," and the breakthrough single in the U.K. "I'm Bad." The album was voted as one of The Source Magazine's 100 Best Rap Albums in 1988.
On March, 28 1989, Cool J released his third album, Walking with a Panther. The commercially successful album produced several charting singles "Going Back to Cali," "I'm That Type of Guy," "Jingling Baby," and "Big Ole Butt." The song "Goin' Back to Cali" later appeared on the soundtrack for the movie Less Than Zero, Marek Kanievska's adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' novel starring Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz and Robert Downey Jr. But the album, which focused too much on love ballads albeit with some highly danceable songs, was frequently criticized by the hip-hop community as being too commercial.
Mama Said Knock You Out was Cool J's next album in which he collaborated with talented producer Marly Marl. It was released on September 18, 1990, following the fallout of the ongoing feud with old-school rapper Kool Moe Dee. The album revived the hardcore image of Cool J's early days that appeared to be ruined by his previous album, Walking with a Panther. It helped restore Cool J's hip-hop icon status as it became a critical and commercial success. It spawned four hit singles: "The Boomin' System," "Around the Way Girl," (which sampled clips from the Mary Jane Girls song "All Night Long"), the hard-hitting title track that won Best Rap Solo Performance at the Grammy Awards of 1992, and "6 Minutes Of Pleasure." The album climbed to #16 in the U.S. charts, and finally went on to sell over two million copies according to the RIAA.
Meanwhile, Cool J stepped into acting and appeared in John Badham's action-comedy film The Hard Way (1991), with James Woods and Michael J. Fox Barry, and in Levinson's Oscar-nominated dark comedy Toys (1992) alongside Robin Williams. Afterward, he recorded his fifth album, 14 Shots To The Dome. Released on March 16, 1993, the album met mixed critical and commercial response, going only Gold, despite producing the small hit "Back Seat of My Jeep."
"Hip-hop can be limiting and I refuse to accept limits. I've been training as an actor for six years. Nobody goes to acting school for six years. I mean, the college course is only four years! I absolutely trained. My acting coach is from the Stanislavsky school. It's real - I act." LL Coll J.
From 1995 to 1999, Cool J starred in the NBC/UPN Emmy-nominated sitcom "In the House," as Marion Hill, a former professional football player who was forced to rent out most rooms in his house due to his financial predicament. During that time, he also continued his musical career, releasing his next album, Mr. Smith, on November 21, 1995. After the commercially disappointing 14 Shots To The Dome, album Mr. Smith, which saw Cool J concentrating on the ballads and spawned the hits "Hey Lover" (featuring Boyz II Men; won him a Grammy Award), "Doin' It," and "Loungin'," went 2x Platinum. He then went to perform at MTV's Inaugural Ball for President Clinton, and became the first rapper to be featured on MTV's Rockumentary.
On November 5, 1996, Cool J released his first greatest hits compilation, All World: Greatest Hits, which has since been certified Platinum by the RIAA. The next year, on October 14, 1997, he released his seventh full-length original album, Phenomenon, which executively produced by Sean "Puffy" Combs. Although it was not as commercially successful as Mr. Smith in terms of sales, but Phenomenon did go Platinum. The title track peaked at #9 on the UK Singles Chart while only reaching #55 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Meanwhile, on the big screen, Cool J could be seen in the films Woo, a romantic comedy by Daisy von Scherler Mayer starring Jada Pinkett Smith and Tommy Davidson, Caught Up, a crime/drama by writer/director Darin Scott starring Bokeem Woodbine, and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, a horror/thriller by Steve Miner, the seventh film in the Halloween film series in which Cool J co-starred with Jamie Lee Curtis and Josh Hartnett. He also played significant roles in Oliver Stone's football drama Any Given Sunday (with Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Dennis Quaid and Jamie Foxx), Renny Harlin's sci-fi/horror Deep Blue Sea (alongside Thomas Jane, Samuel L. Jackson and Saffron Burrows), and Michael Rymer's crime-drama film In Too Deep, in which he played the lead role of Dwayne Gittens/God, a powerful underworld boss who controls the drug traffic in Cincinnati, Ohio through bribery or intimidation that he becomes untouchable.
The new millennium saw Cool J releasing G.O.A.T: The Greatest of All Time, which peaked at #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and went double platinum. Two years later, 10, his ninth studio album, hit the music stores. The album that included the popular singles "Paradise" (featuring Amerie), "Luv U Better," and the hit 2003 Jennifer Lopez duet, "All I Have," topped at #2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 but only reached gold status. The song "Paradise" later appeared on the soundtrack to the 2003 film Deliver Us from Eva, Gary Hardwick's romantic drama comedy in which Cool J stars as Raymond 'Ray' Adams, the local playboy who was paid to date the titular troublesome young lady (played by Gabrielle Union).
By this time, Cool J also has appeared in the big screen remake of the classic TV series Charlie's Angels (2000; starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu), starred as Vivica A. Fox's alcoholic husband in Doug McHenry's comedy feature Kingdom Come (2001) and co-starred with Chris Klein, Jean Reno and Rebecca Romijn in John McTiernan's remake of the 1975 sci-fi movie of the same name, Rollerball (2002). He also played patrol officer Deacon "Deke" Kay armed with a Shotgun in Clark Johnson's action/crime film S.W.A.T. (2003), alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell, and Michelle Rodriguez.
In August 2002, Cool J's concert at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in the Southern California town of Irvine, in conservative Orange County, was shut down after members of rival gangs took over the stage and began clubbing people with metal bars. He recalled: “The incident was 'just appalling' and 'a prime example of how much, how we as black men really need ... someone around us who can guide us in the right direction, and how we are so in desperate need of attention that we would ruin an event just to feel important.'”
On August 31, 2004, Cool J released his tenth studio album, The DEFinition, which spawned the singles "Headsprung" and "Hush." The DEFinition peaked at #4 on the U.S. Billboard 200 but seemed to only go Gold in the United States. However, it received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. He then returned to acting, starring as an outside observer and a formidable detective in Renny Harlin's slasher film Mindhunters (2004; opposite Val Kilmer and Christian Slater), as a gang leader in Wayne Beach's drama/thriller Slow Burn (2005; alongside Ray Liotta) and as an officer in writer/director David J. Burke's crime/drama/thriller Edison (2005; with Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman and Justin Timberlake). He also guest starred in an episode of Fox critically-acclaimed medical drama "House, M.D."
Cool J released his next studio album, Todd Smith, on April 11, 2006, which produced the high-intensity first single "Control Myself" (featuring Jennifer Lopez). The album that includes collaborations with Pharrell Williams, Juelz Santana, Teairra Mari, Ginuwine, Mary J. Blige, 112, Mary Mary, Ryan Toby (from City High) and Freeway premiered on the Billboard charts at #6, selling 116,000 units and premiered at #79 on the UK albums chart and #40 in Canada. It has been certified Gold by the RIAA.
As an actor, Cool J recently played Queen Latifah's ex-con co-worker who has a secret crush on her in Wayne Wang's remake of the 1950 movie of the same name, Last Holiday (2006), and was spotted as a guest in a March 2007 episode of NBC Golden Globe Award-winning sitcom "30 Rock." He is currently on set, filming a CBS upcoming TV series pilot from CSI creator Anthony Zuiker titled The Man, in which he will play the lead role of an undercover LAPD cop struggles to find a balance between his professional life and his family life. He will also star opposite DMX in Jim Vickers' forthcoming action/thriller film, Marble City.
"One thing I'm not gonna do, because I'm black, is suddenly say 'you know what, I can't play a villain!' You don't need to be the good guy to get a good message out. I'm not going to limit myself like that. I just want to play good roles and be able to touch a lot of people." LL Coll J.
Cool J has announced that Exit 13 will be his last album on Def Jam, the only label he has ever been signed to for more than twenty years. Originally titled, Todd Smith Pt. 2: Back To Cool, the album will be executive produced by fellow Queens rapper 50 Cent. The album will see an early 2008 release and the first single reportedly will be "Make U My Chick."
“I don't get cocky and start thinking I know everything about the music or like I know everything about what people want to hear.” LL Cool J.
Besides a rap ambassador, Cool J is also a humanitarian. He founded Camp Cool J Foundation for underprivileged children. Additionally, he is a shrewd businessman. He established his own label, called P.O.G. (Power Of God) in 1993 and formed the company Rock The Bells, whose artists include artists such as Amyth, Smokeman and Simone Starks.
In fashion, Cool J has his own range of footwear called Najee. He has worked behind the scenes with the mid-eighties Hip-Hop sportswear line TROOP andhelped launch the Hip-Hop fashion line FUBU in the 1990s. Recently, he launched a clothing line, which is aimed towards the higher end of the market while a less expensive line will be released called "T.S" (short from Todd Smith).
Cool J has authored three books, his autobiography “I Make My Own Rules” (1998), the children-oriented book called “And The Winner Is...” (2002) and "The Platinum Workout" (2006), about diet, workout, philosophy and ideology. He has appeared in the TV commercials for The Gap (1998), Gatorade (2004), Dr. Pepper (2003), IKEA (2001) and Volvo. He was also featured in the music video for LSG: "Curious," Sisqó : "Thong Song," Big Pun: "It's So Hard," Missy 'Misdemeanor' Elliott: "Get Ur Freak On," and Jennifer Lopez: "All I Have."
“I don't even think about that. I'm not a dude that's trying to be cute. There are a lot of guys that are prettier than me so I don't get caught up.” LL Cool J (when asked about people commenting on his looks).
BET Comedy: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Box Office Movie, Deliver Us from Eva, 2004
ShoWest: Male Star of Tomorrow, 2003
NAACP Image: Outstanding Male Artist, 2003
Soul Train Music: outstanding career achievements in the field of entertainment, 2003
NAACP Image: Outstanding Hip-Hop/Rap Artist, "G.O.A.T.," 2001
Blockbuster Entertainment: Favorite Supporting Actor - Action, Deep Blue Sea, 2000
MTV Video Music: Career Achievement, 1997
NAACP Image: Best Rap Artist, "Mr. Smith," 1997
NAACP Image: Best Rap Artist, "Mr. Smith," 1996
Grammy: Best Rap Solo Performance, "Hey Lover," 1996
Grammy: Best Rap Solo Performance, "Mama Said Knock You Out," 1991
MTV Video Music: Best Rap Video, "Mama Said Knock You Out," 1991
Soul Train Music: Best Rap - Single, "I Need Love," 1987