LL Cool J has been a part of the hip-hop industry for more than 30 years, and he isn’t slowing down. The 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member talked with ET about his future plans for his acting and music careers as well as his reputation as one of the first rappers to find mainstream success.
At a young age, LL Cool J recalls being a fan of the genre and other rappers. I was already rhyming at that point because, if you’re a fan, you’re rapping and whatnot, but I probably began writing when I was 10 or 11 or 12 years old, he says.
The rapper told ET that his legendary style was a result of his childhood in New York City, where his neighbours fostered kids from all boroughs who would trade cassette records with him.
“I remember listening to [the Cold Crush Brothers] and other music when I was eight or nine years old. Men would say, “Rap that bit!” after hearing me speak because they liked my voice. I would then begin rapping “He remembers, adding that he used to ask his grandmother for records so he could rhyme along to them. That was like magic, just an unbelievable time.
The rapper, who attributes much of his humility and tenacity to his grandparents and mother, spent the most of his youth in Queens.
“You know, my grandma was a journey. I was taught that having a humble attitude is a superpower, “He says this while thinking back on the teachings he learned as a middle-class, Catholic child in the 1990s.
“Never abandon a job you’ve started until it’s finished. Be it a large or little labour. Either do it well, or don’t. It was the refrain I was raised with “the winner of the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors reveals. “I transmit it to my children. That and my mother’s words to the effect that you can do everything you set your mind to. You’re a gorgeous boy, Todd, my mother would remark. Nevertheless, girls don’t like fools. And everything is possible if you set your mind to it. I just got lucky and had ladies who wanted to tell me things that would help me achieve my goals. They wanted to imbue me with something that would enable me to achieve greater heights. You need the proper fuel, and you must provide it to your children. Put a stake in their hearts and make them believe.”
Contrary to acting, hip-hop has been a part of the rapper’s life ever since he can remember, according to the artist. He claims, “I came to them and I was hip-hop.” “I was an MC from the beginning, which is how acting for me differs from hip-hop. The acting thing came about because I was talented and capable of doing it; these are two separate things. Yet in the end, art doesn’t care how it came about—whether inspiration struck suddenly or over the course of a century. In the end, it’s what happens. Having said that, I just had a strong belief in [hip-hop].”