Family & Companions
A true hip-hop original, LL Cool J did as much as anybody to bring rap to the mainstream in the '80s. He was born James Todd Smith in the Bay Shore section of Long Island in New York on January 14, 1968. His early life was horrific - his father shot both LL's mother and grandfather, and the young LL was the victim of child abuse. He found solace in rapping while still an adolescent, and by the time he was 16 he had gotten himself a record deal with Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons' then-new Def Jam label. Rechristened LL Cool J (Ladies Love Cool James), he released his debut single, "I Need a Beat," in 1984. The record's sales figures helped to put both LL and the label on the map. As successful as the song was, it hadn't charted, but LL's next two singles, "I Can't Live Without My Radio" and "Rock the Bells" became bona fide hits, and his 1985 debut LP, Radio, crossed over to the pop charts and went Platinum, making him one of hip hop's first real stars. His next album, 1987's Bigger and Deffer blew up even bigger, hitting No. 1 R&B and No. 3 Pop and including the hit "I Need Love," a gentle love song that expanded people's conception of rap's possibilities. The 1989 album Walking With a Panther was similarly successful, but it was 1990's Mama Said Knock You Out that really carved LL's face into hip hop's Mt. Rushmore, becoming the biggest album of his career and birthing the Gold singles "Around the Way Girl" and the title track. In the early '90s, LL inaugurated his acting sideline, which would prove as long lasting as his musical career. During this period he appeared in such films as Barrry Levinson's "Toys" (1993) and "The Hard Way," and in 1995 he began a five-season run as the star of the TV sitcom "In the House" (WB 1995-2000). Later, he starred in the procedural drama "NCIS: Los Angeles" (CBS 2009- ). Throughout his life, LL would continue to rack up hip-hop "firsts," from being the first hip-hop artist to appear on American Bandstand to becoming the first rapper honored at the Kennedy Center, the latter distinction arriving in 2017.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Appeared as himself in the film "Krush Groove"
Released debut album <i>Radio</i> to critical acclaim
Released first single "I Need a Beat" with Def Jam Records
Made early TV appearance singing on a Diana Ross special
Released second album <i>Bigger and Deffer</i>
Released highly successful fourth album <i>Mama Said Knock You Out</i>
Made acting debut in the film "The Hard Way"; also featured his hit song "Mama Said Knock You Out"
Co-starred opposite Robin Williams in Barry Levinson's "Toys"
Formed own record label, P.O.G. (Power of God), signed multi-album deal with Def Records
Starred in Debbie Allen's feature directorial debut "Out of Sync"
Released his successful sixth album <i>Mr. Smith</i>
Played a former professional football player on the sitcom "In the House" (NBC, 1995-96; UPN, 1996-99)
Featured in the horror sequel "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later"
Co-starred as a football player in Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday"
Won plaudits for his effective turn as an evil drug dealer in "In Too Deep"
Appeared as Mr. Jones in the big screen remake of "Charlie's Angels"
Released the album <i>G.O.A.T.</i>, which stood for the "Greatest Of All Time"
Cast as one of the leads in the ensemble feature "Kingdom Come"
Co-starred in the remake of "Rollerball"
First lead role, playing a a womanizer who meets his match in the comedy feature "Deliver Us From Eva"
Cast alongside Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Farrell and Michelle Rodriguez in the action thriller "S.W.A.T."
Released tenth studio album <i>The DEFinition</i>; earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album
Co-starred in the thriller "Edison"
Co-starred with Val Kilmer in Renny Harlin's psychological thriller "Mindhunters"
Played Queen Latifah's love interest in the comedy "Last Holiday"
Co-starred as a gang leader opposite Ray Liotta in "Slow Burn"
Released final album under the Def Jam label <i>Exit 13</i>
Cast as Special Agent Sam Hanna on the CBS spin-off series "NCIS: Los Angeles"
Nominated for the 2011 Teen Choice Award for Choice TV Actor: Action Adventure
Hosted the 2012 Grammy Awards ceremony
Released the album <i>Authentic</i>
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame