James Todd Smith (born January 14, 1968 in Bay Shore, New York), better known as LL Cool J (Ladies Love Cool James), is a Grammy Award winning American rapper and actor signed to Def Jam. He has released twelve studio albums over his 27 year career, has starred in numerous feature films and currently plays Agent Sam Hanna on the hit show NCIS: Los Angeles.
Born in Bay Shore, New York, and raised between St. Albans, New York and Hollis, New York in the borough of Queens. The only child of Ondrea (née Griffith) and James Smith, Jr. Smith is of both African American and Native American descent. He spent his youth singing in the church choir, participating in the Boy Scouts and delivering newspapers. Def Jam released his first record, the 12” single “I Need a Beat” in 1983. The single sold over 100,000 copies. The success of “I Need a Beat” helped lead to a distribution deal with Def Jam and Columbia Records in 1985. Soon after, he dropped out of Andrew Jackson High School to record his debut album.
He is known for romantic ballads such as I Need Love and Hey Lover as well as pioneering hip-hop such as I Can’t Live Without My Radio, I’m Bad, The Boomin’ System, Mama Said Knock You Out, and 4, 3, 2, 1. L has also appeared in several films.