If Hip Hop was a person he or she would have to have been influential back in the early ’80s when Hip Hop was still fighting for its validity as a genre. If Hip Hop were a person it would be someone who rode the rising and falling tide throughout hip hops decades of success and failure. It would be someone who made a number of songs older than the people who sing them today. It would be a person whose lyrics were so instrumental in setting a foundation for the culture that even a recent NIKE commercial featuring Serena Williams, would have her reciting them. Don’t call it a comeback, he’s been here for years, if Hip Hop were a person, it would be the 53-year-old James todd Smith, professionally known as LL Cool J.
LL Cool J, is an American rapper, record producer, actor, and entrepreneur from Queens, New York. The lip-licking lyricist and movie star has been such a successful sex symbol, he had to put “Ladies Love” in front of his name, abbreviated as L.L. Mister Mama Said Knock You Out, who’s been “doin’ it and doin’ it and doin’ it well” for decades, has lent all manner of style and stamina to hip hop as a person. The only thing more impressive than his discography is his filmography. His transition from America’s most wanted, to the closest a grown man can get to being America’s sweetheart, is iconic.
When did you first come to know of LL Cool J? Was it Rock the Bells; with those oft-recited and sampled Muhammad-Ali style braggadocious self-proclaiming lyrics? Or was it on “In the House” as the character Marion? Maybe it was while watching Any Given Sunday, when the method actor knocked out the equally legendary Jaime Foxx. Your introduction to LL Cool J could have been at any time from 1985 to the present. The prolific Head Sprung rapper has reinvented himself throughout the decades with moisturized lips in tow.
A turning point in his career is when he crushed his image that was rife with toxic masculinity and opened up in a book about his life entitled, I Make My Own Rules. In the book, he goes into gruesome detail about how his father shot his mother and grandfather; leaving his petite grandmother to carry them both, bleeding and bloodied, into a car before his 4-year-old eyes. The single he released at the time was called Father; an autobiographical piece expressing how desperately he wanted a father. He would eventually reconcile with his father later on in his life. Fun fact: according to the book his grandmother taught him his first rhyme leading to his lyrical orientation, “ If a task is once begun, never leave until it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.” If Hip Hop was a person, it would be LL Cool J.