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The life of LL Cool J

He hit it big with “Mama Said Knock You Out” in 1990. 13 years later, LL Cool J’s career encompasses music, movies and books.
/ Source: TODAY

LL Cool J started rapping when he was 9 years old. At 16, he was the first artist to sign with the now legendary Def Jam records. Ten albums later, he continues to entertain the world with his music, his movies, and his books. “Today” looks back on the career of LL Cool J.

In the world of hip hop, LL Cool J is ... well, one of the coolest.

“I try to provide that positive alternative for people, you know, when they want to get into some hip hop that’s authentic, that’s official, that’s real, that’s not watered down, but at the same time doesn’t have that dark energy,” says the man who was born James Todd Smith.

His rap name, LL Cool J, stands for “Ladies Love Cool James,” and boy do they.

“When people come up to me and say, you know I’ve been listening to your music for years, I love it,” he says. “That makes me feel really good.”

At 34, he’s already knocked out 10 albums, selling some 10 million copies.

Lyor Cohen, the CEO of Island Def Jam Music Group, says whatever LL Cool J does from here on out is gravy: “The eleventh album, the twelfth, the thirteenth, however many he’s going to do, is just going to be sheer pleasure and enjoyment.”

A two-time Grammy winner, LL, like his pal Will Smith, has made a successful jump to the big screen. “I had always acted, had always enjoyed acting but never took it too serious. I was making plenty of money in music. I was doing my thing, I was satisfied. Then I decided, hey you know what, I could do more,” he says. His latest movie is the much anticipated “S.W.A.T.”

And if music and movies weren’t enough, he’s penned an autobiography and shown a softer side by writing a children’s book called “And the Winner Is...”

LL says he welcomes the opportunity to branch out: “Being able to inspire people in different ways, whether it’s inspiring them to exercise or doing a children’s book and inspiring kids to keep moving forward, I try to find that balance,” he says. “So it’s been nice.”

Now married and a father of four, this veteran rapper shows no signs of slowing down: “I love acting, I love performing, I love stage. You know, I love it all. So, why not pursue it whole heartedly? Whatever reason that the world is trying to give you to give up, you don’t have to listen. You don’t have to receive that. Just keep pushing forward. And going for your dreams. Maybe you’ll be on the “Today” show next week ... you never know.”