Ladies Love Cool James
Real Name: James Todd Smith
D.O.B: January 14, 1968 Bay Shore, Long Island NY
Label: Def Jam Recordings
LL Cool J is a multifaceted icon of hip-hop he is the living personification of the ever-evolving culture, a living child of his forefather’s movement in the mid 1970’s. He became the first active rap star to come of age within the biosphere of the culture. He evolved routinely with the growth ever changing his personae as a posing tough-guy, knockout artist, the super lover, the comeback kid and mainstream pop idol, all the while sustaining the respect of the peers in his professional community. LL sees himself as the romantic lip lickin’ ladies man, the ultimate hip-hop sex symbol. With his chiselled muscular physique and charming flirtatious verses he remains today a constant rolling movement graduating from every era of the genre. He is still today the quintessence of hip-hop.
Todd Smith was born in Westchester County, New York as an only child and grew up in the working-class section of Hollis, Queens, New York to father James and mother Ondrea Smith. At a young age James Jr. would have an active social calendar participating in the church choir, playing football and being active in the boy scouts. He had a small job as a paper boy. Young Todd’s childhood was plagued with drug abuse and domestic violence, his parents often fighting in front of him. His mother moved them out to live with her mother in St. Albans Queens. As a result, their relationship turned bloody, in 1972 when late one night when Ondrea returned home from work his father shot her. Seeking revenge for his family abandoning him James, drunk and high shot her in the back and legs with a 12 gauge shotgun as she ran for safety into her mother’s house. LL recalled this era in his life on the video for the highly emotional song, "All I Ever Wanted" from his Phenomenon album. He also struck his grandfather in the stomach. Both survived the attack with Todd experiencing the tragedy at such a tender age of four. This would be the beginning of the hardships he would live through. Ondrea Smith would later begin seeing a man named Roscoe who would profoundly challenge the young man’s growing years. In his autobiography, LL claimed he would routinely physically abuse him, stripped naked and beaten for being hungry, watching TV or just looking at Roscoe the wrong way, often while his mother was at work. It was at this time he recalls where he would start to wear hats compulsively. A life-changing moment happened when his grandfather bought Todd two turntables and a mixer. Todd found the passion in hip-hop and dancing as a way of escaping the family problems.
Todd grew up with a musical background, his mother playing accordion in church and grandfather playing tenor saxophone and grandmother (Ellen Griffin) sung in the choir. By age 9, young Todd was an OB (Original B-boy) learning to break dance and rhyme and had amerced himself in the cultural trend of hip-hop. He was the bratty, tough kid and by age 13 he'd already made his first studio recording. Over the following 3 years he spread demo tapes around the industry waiting for somebody to pick him up. Rumoured, both Tommy Boy and Sugar Hill Records turned him down for a record deal before 1984.
Fresh Def Jam artist, King Ad-Rock from the new Beastie Boys group had stumbled across a demo tape of Todd’s and promptly played it for Rick Rubin. James signed to Def Jam Records in 1984 and at the impressionable age of 16, LL Cool J had arrived. He released the underground hit "I Need a Beat". This became the first hit record for Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons’ Def Jam, and with this he dropped out of high school to record his début album, Radio released in 1985. This made LL one of the very first rappers to use conventional song structures to make pop-oriented rap. "I Can't Live Without My Radio" was a successful hit and "Rock the Bells" became a lifelong anthem of hip-hop and both made the LP Def jam’s first ever platinum success. The young generation got their first glimpse of Ladies Love on the back of the Radio cover, looking damned cute for the girls, arms crossed in defiance with his now-signature red Kangol hat atop his head. As well as stealing a 90 second cameo appearance in Russell Simmons’ Def Jam film, Krush Groove used as a vehicle for showcasing their fresh line-up. 16 years old breaking glass with his rap and bad boy stance, looking the epitome of dope!
In ’87 he released a follow-up, ego-trip classic, Bigger and Deffer. The first rap ballad, "I Need Love" was one of the first pop-rap songs to be a hit. The love song topped the Billboard R&B charts and the video portrayed him as a lonely rap star sitting humbly in his stretch white limo with honest intentions to release his love onto the right girl. LL Cool J had become known as the pioneer of crossover pop-rap. On the Def Jam Tour later that year to promote the new album in Georgia, LL was arrested for public lewdness after his literal moves led him to dry-hump a couch on stage while performing "I Need Love" . This gave Cool J the identity as being the biggest sex symbol in rap, being the first rapper to drop ‘love’ into his lyrics. He had won the female fan base that controlled his next career aim. By 1988 Playgirl anointed him "One of the Ten Sexiest Men in Rock ‘n’ Roll" and he claimed he wanted to be “the first black American male sex symbol”. The hardcore image building in the genre perceived this as a stab in the back to the campaign and the boyz in the hood scoffed at this recreation of LL Cool J. It became trendy to dis LL and step to him at clubs. Becoming the popular target of choice, peers battled against him, most notably Kool Moe Dee who professes stole his chic and lyrical distinctiveness. On the album, How Ya Like Me Now with a jeep on the front cover with a red Kangol hat under the wheel, he shot at LL only for a retaliation hit called "Jack the Ripper". He was now being struck by every daring rapper in the game, when interviewed on Los Angeles Times he was quoted as saying “I’m Rambo, just going for myself.”