James Todd Smith (born January 14, 1968), better known as LL Cool J (an abbreviation for Ladies Love Cool James), is an American rapper, entrepreneur, and actor from Bay Shore, New York. He is known for romantic ballads such as "I Need Love", "Around the Way Girl" and "Hey Lover" as well as pioneering hip-hop such as "I Can't Live Without My Radio", "I'm Bad", "The Boomin' System", and "Mama Said Knock You Out". He has released thirteen studio albums and two greatest hits compilations, including 2008's Exit 13, the last for his record deal with Def Jam Recordings. He has also appeared in numerous films, and currently stars as NCIIS Special Agent Sam Hanna on the CBS crime drama television series NCIS:Los Angeles.
As he grew older, Smith found a way to escape the effects of his abuse, and his bullying attitude: hip-hop music. He fell in love with it at the age of nine, and by 11 he was writing lyrics and making his own songs with some DJ equipment his grandmother gave him to stop him riding motorcycles or doing karate. Before too long, LL was an established member of the Hip-Hop community in his area. He gained notoriety through his many rap battles against well-established MCs, including the battle against Chicken and Porn that rocketed him to fame.
Influenced by Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambataa, funk legend Rick James, Kurtis Blow, and pioneers Run-DMC, LL started to create his own rap style.