LL Cool J is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2018 Nominee
LL Cool J

LL Cool J

Eligible year:
2009
Number of nominations:
4
Nominated in:
2010, 2011, 2014, 2018
Category:
Performers
Members:
  • LL Cool J

Def Jam records chose a teenager as their face when ushering in hip-hop’s second wave, and 17-year-old LL Cool J made an unforgettable impression.

He delivered both hardcore raps and sexy love songs with swagger still heard in hip-hop today.

Biography

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Born James Todd Smith in Bay Shore, NY, LL Cool J has always had his sights set on rock & roll. 

LL was only 17 in 1985 when he recorded “Rock The Bells,” which included the following couplet: “It ain’t the glory days with Bruce Springsteen/I’m not a virgin so I know I’ll make Madonna scream.” A year earlier, LL had made his debut on Def Jam, which was also the debut of the label itself. 

His first two singles – “I Need A Beat” followed by “I Want You” – sketched out the two main gears of his career:  testosterone-maddened battle raps and tender, sexy love songs. The former included “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” (1985), “Jack The Ripper” (1987) and “Mama Said Knock You Out” (1991).

The stylish aggression built into these songs influenced no less a figure than Michael Jackson, who cut “Bad” after meeting LL in person – and after LL himself cut “I’m Bad.”  The love songs may have been even more influential and popular. When “I Need Love” went to Number One on Billboard’s Hot R&B Singles chart in 1987, it was the first rap recording ever to reach that summit.

His success in music has served as a launching pad to concurrent careers in the movies, on television, in fashion, and in fitness.

selected discography

“I Need A Beat (1984) • “I Want You,” “Rock The Bells,” “I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” Radio (1985) • “I’m Bad,” “I Need Love,” Bigger And Deffer (1987) • “Going Back To Cali” (1988) • “I’m That Type Of Guy,” Walking With A Panther (1989) • “The Boomin’ System,” “Around The Way Girl,” Mama Said Knock You Out (1990) • “How I’m Comin’” (1993) • “Hey Lover” (1995) • “Doin’ It,” “Loungin,” Mr. Smith (1996) • Phenomenon (1997) • “Father” (1998) • G.O.A.T. (2000) • “Headsprung” (2004) • Todd Smith (2006) • Authentic (2013)

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