From the time he said, "BOX!!!" in his unforgettable scene from the groundbreaking, hip-hop classic 1985 film, Krush Groove, James Todd Smith has stayed in our faces... and ears.
Before his national splash, in the streets of New York and up and down the East Coast, LL Cool J was well known as a brash, braggadocious, hard edged emcee. In 1984, at the age of 16, his first Def Jam single release, "I Need A Beat" was buzzing heavy in the streets.
So much so, that it helped Def Jam get a distribution deal with Columbia Records the following year.
In 1985 Def Jam released LL's debut album, "Radio". Another hit from that "Radio" album that reigned supreme on the East Coast streets was, "Rock The Bells".
The Queens-bred legend proceeded to release 13 albums and 2 greatest hits releases. 12 of his 13 albums were released on Def Jam Records.
In the mid-to-late 80's, LL Cool J, along with Heavy D laid out the blueprint of balancing the mainstream with the streets. Both were able to make radio hits for the masses, but yet were still able to feed the streets, music that would satisfy their appetites.
LL did it for the ladies and the fellas, just asked Kool Mo Dee, Ice T, MC Hammer and Canibus, amongst others. Not many can lay claim to that type of successful, versatility.
LL won 2 Grammy Awards, "Mama Said Knock You Out" ('92) and "Hey Lover" ('97) for Best Rap Solo Performance. He had 9 total Grammy Nominations from 1989-2005.
He won 4 NAACP Image Awards, 1996 "Mr. Smith" and 1997 "Phenomenon" Best Rap Artist. Also winning in 2001, "G.O.A.T.", with Outstanding Hip-Hop/Artist and in 2003, "10" with Outstanding Male Artist.
He also won 3 Soul Train Music Awards. In 1988 he won Best Rap Album with "Bigger and Deffer" and Best Rap Single with "I Need Love". In 2003 LL won the Outstanding Career Achievements in the Field of Entertainment Award.
Not only did "Uncle L" excel in music, but he took his talents to Hollywood and has had just as much an impact. Who knew that cameo in Krush Grove in 1985 would lead to a small role in "Wildcats", "Toys" and then having his own TV Show from 1995-99, "In The House".
His Hollywood presence began to accelerate, having a role in the 7th film of the legendary franchise Halloween, in Halloween H20. He also starred or co-starred in "In Too Deep", "Deep Blue Sea", "Any Given Sunday", "Rollerball", "Deliver Us From Eva"," S.W.A.T", "Mindhunters", "Last Holiday" and "Grudge Match".
In 2009, he went back to the small screen as Special Agent Sam Hanna on "NCIS: Los Angeles". A role he currently holds.
LL became the epitome of the "Hip-Hop Trifecta".. Successful music career, successful movie career, successful TV show career..... oh and let's not forget FUBU..... see the video below
Now, musically, fast forward to 2021, LL is still Rocking Bells, literally. In 2018 he launched his own channel, Rock The Bells Radio, on Sirius XM. It has grown to be one of the most popular channels on the format, paying homage to the hip-hop culture's early years.
In Hip-Hop, there are a lot of emcees/rappers given the title, GOAT. When the topic of GOAT is discussed, many factors are considered: Pen game (originality, creativity, wordplay, scope, content and versatility). Other factors include, impact, influence and longevity. LL gets a check on each of the factors.
However, I will say even beyond just Hip-Hop, in terms of totality of success in every aspect of entertainment, LL Cool J is arguably the most successfully, versatile hip-hop artist ever and he is amongst the top of that conversation...... RESPECT THE GOAT.