Which entertainer's nickname comes from the observation, "Ladies Love Cool James?"

And the answer: LL Cool J.

Photo courtesy: Chris Carroll/Getty Images. 

The American rapper, actor, and author known as LL Cool J was born with the name James Todd Smith. He first became known in the late 80s and early 90s for his hit singles "Going Back to Cali," and "Mama Said Knock You Out."

After a turbulent childhood, LL Cool J –  then known as James Todd Smith – began rapping at the young age of 9. Music became an escape from his troubles at home, and soon his family came to support him by buying him his first mixer and drum machine. By 15, his friends had come up with the nickname LL Cool J, and was creating demo tapes in his grandparents' home. By using the mixer he had received from his grandfather, Smith produced and mixed his own demos and sent them to various record companies throughout New York City, including influential Rick Rubin. It was through Rubin that Smith experienced his first big break– together, they made the single "I Need a Beat" and sent it to artist manager Russell Simmons. Simmons loved the single, and, in the same year, Rick and Russell co-founded the famous Def Jam Recordings.

LL Cool J's first album, Radio (1985), was a hit. The rapper became one of the early hip-hop acts to achieve mainstream success along with Kurtis Blow and Run-D.M.C. However, it wasn't until his second album, Bigger and Deffer (1987) that Cool J experienced his first claim to stardom. This stands as one of his biggest-selling career albums, having sold in excess of two million copies in the United States alone, eleven weeks at in the number one spot on Billboard's R&B albums chart, and reaching number three on the Billboard's Pop albums chart.

LL Cool J remained in prominence well into the early 2000s. His sound gave way to a new age of hip hop and rap music, paving the way for much of the genre-bending music we enjoy today. In contrast to the lengthy, jam-like form predominant throughout early hip hop, new school artists such as LL Cool J tended to compose shorter songs that would be more accessible and had potential for radio play, giving way to more cohesive projects than their old school counterparts.

Check out LL Cool J's hit single "Going Back to Cali" below.


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