James Todd Smith (born January 14, 1968), better known as LL Cool J, is an American rapper and actor. LL Cool J stands for "Ladies Love Cool James." He is known for romantic ballads such as "I Need Love" and "Hey Lover" as well as pioneering hip-hop such as "Headsprung", "I Can't Live Without My Radio", "I'm Bad", "The Boomin' System", "Mama Said Knock You Out", and "4, 3, 2, 1". He has also appeared in several films. LL Cool J is one of a few hip-hop stars of his era to sustain a successful recording career for more than two decades. He has released twelve studio albums and a greatest hits compilation so far, with his latest album being 2008's Exit 13, the last for LL's record deal with Def Jam Recordings. He now resides in Manhasset, New York with his wife and four children. The couple has also adopted several times.
LL spent most of his youth performing in the church choir, participating in the Boy Scouts, and delivering newspapers. At age 16, by using a mixing table purchased by his grandfather at Sears, Smith produced and created demos and sent them to various record companies, including Def Jam Recordings.
Under his new stage name, LL Cool J (Ladies Love Cool James), Def Jam released his first record, the 12" single "I Need a Beat". The single sold over 100,000 copies and helped establish LL as a rapper in the music industry. The success of "I Need a Beat" helped lead to a distribution deal with Def Jam and Columbia Records in 1985. Soon after, LL dropped out of Hillcrest High School to record his debut album.