Celebrity Then And Now
LL Cool J
Name: LL Cool J
Birthdate: January 1, 1970
Famous Years: 1984 - Present
Currently Known For: "NCIS: Los Angeles"
Networth: $100 MillionFamous For: "Mama Said Knock You Out," "I Need Love," "Going Back to Cali"
LL Cool J
Name LL Cool J
Birthdate January 1, 1970
Famous Years 1984 - Present
Currently Known For "NCIS: Los Angeles"
Networth $100 Million
Famous For "Mama Said Knock You Out," "I Need Love," "Going Back to Cali"

Between his music, acting and business careers, James Todd Smith has been one of the more successful people in entertainment over the best three decades. In his first 50 years, Smith has made a living in a lot of different ventures, all while under the name of LL Cool J, which stands for Ladies Love Cool James.

Smith was born on January 14, 1968 in New York’s Long Island and developed a love for hip hop at a very young age when the genre of music was still in its infancy. Smith was recording his music frequently when he got into his teenage years, with his goal set firmly on becoming successful in hip hop.

Talking about how he got into rapping, Smith said that “See, when you grow up in the inner city, you feel like nobody cares about you. You feel invisible, so the first time I heard these young, black men rapping on these records saying these rhymes - they sounded powerful, man. And in them sounding powerful, it made me feel powerful.” Hoping to get signed to a label, Smith would send out his demo tapes to any label that he could, adopting the LL Cool J moniker and catching the ears of Def Jam.

He was just 16 years old at the time that he sent his demo tapes to Def Jam, drawing the attention of producer Rick Rubin who would go on to become a legend himself. Rubin was still in college and living in his dormitory when he heard the demo tape and getting signed to the fledgling label that became mainstream.

In 1984, Smith would have his first taste of success when he released the song “I Need a Beat” that became a moderate hit with fans. The next year, Smith had his first mainstream album with “Radio” that really put him on the map, making its way to the charts under a lot of different genres. His album would become a platinum-selling one, and Smith was suddenly one of the pioneers of solo rap.

The rest of the 1980s would see a lot of success for Smith, who even crossed over into R&B with hits such as “I Need Love”, with the albums “Bigger and Deffer” and “Walking with a Panther” becoming massive hits. When the 1990s came around, Smith wasn’t only a musical star, but he would also branch out into acting. It was at this time that he appeared in the comedy films “Toys” with Robin Williams and “The Hard Way” with Michael J. Fox and James Woods. He also had a sitcom called “In the House”, all while keeping the good times rolling in his music career.

“I just wanted to have freedom,” Smith said of starting his acting career. “That’s why I chose to do acting. I didn’t want to be handcuffed to one thing, and now I have options.”

Smith had four total albums during the 1990s, all of which would reach the top 20 of the Billboard 200 charts and went either platinum or gold in certifications. The 2000s have seen six more albums, with all but one reaching the top 10. The most recent album was released in 2013 called ‘Authentic”. He’s won two Grammy Awards for his work so far, with a pair of Rap Solo Performance awards for “Hey Lover” and “Mama Said Knock You Out”. Not only that, but Smith has also hosted the Grammy Awards.

Not many people have hosted an awards show of that size, but Smith had the gig for five years. “They wanted to do something different, and I actually felt totally comfortable with that,” he said when it was announced he’d no longer be hosting. “I had an amazing run on the Grammys. I’m good. I made some great friends, I have friends at the Academy, friends on the production team, the executives.”

If you didn’t see Smith host the Grammy Awards at all, you’ve likely seen him on screen in some other capacity. He’s starred in films such as “Any Given Sunday” and “S.W.A.T.” and has had a long-running role on the hit crime drama “NCIS: Los Angeles”, and even has the hit celebrity show “Lip Sync Battle” that he runs. Needless to say, Smith has done just about everything that you can as an entertainer and you can add business ventures into that as well thanks to clothing lines, a music label, a satellite radio station and more.

Smith has plans for another album coming up that was originally to be released in 2015, but has been pushed back so that he can make sure it’s exactly to his liking. When talking about the new album, Smith has said that he didn’t think it was quite ready. When it does get finished, though, you can expect it to be a big hit with his long-time fans who have been loyal to LL Cool J for decades now.

“I think hip hop needs me to put out a special project, and kind of just set a little bit of a template for guys,” he said. “Give them something to aspire to, quite frankly. I think I need to do that. I want to do something special, and I plan on doing that and putting that out there.”