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Essay on LL Cool J – An Outstanding Actor and Artist

Updated August 9, 2022

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Essay on LL Cool J – An Outstanding Actor and Artist essay

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LL Cool J, which stands for “Ladies Love Cool James” is an actor and artist who signed to Def Jam Records in 1984. After making it big in the music industry, LL Cool J switched to acting full time and focused more on his impact in the fashion and media industry. As a hip-hop artist, fashion icon and actor, LL Cool J has made a legendary impact on the production industry, through his music, influence, screen time, and style role (Editors, 2014).

Starting off with his music career, Cool J began writing lyrics at the age of eleven, and even left school at seventeen to record his first album, titled “Radio” (Editors, 2014). His style was established by former structures with new pop sounds to mix in well with modern rap. From the “Radio” album, his most notable singles included “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” and “Rock the Bells” (Pierznik, 2015).

In todays generation, most people would know him as an actor or host, however he is arguably one of the most influential rappers of all time. After he blew up, his sound changed in order to incorporate west and east coast feels which debuted on his next project “B.A.D (Bigger and Deffer).” This led Cool J to have the first rap song to lead the top of the Hot R&B charts with his single “I Need Love.” This allowed for Cool J to gain a sort of respect that had never been seen before. Three years later, Ice Cube dropped “The Bomb Squad” where we could hear Cool J’s influence (Pierznik, 2015).

Even though he had a incredible reign at the top, it was short lived. Fans started to criticize him for being “lazy and a sellout” because he was trying to ride out his fame. Other artists and media outlets accused him of not keeping up with current trends and ideas in hip hop (Editors, 2014). In his autobiography “I Make My Own Rules,” LL Cool J said “My style had been getting a little tired, and I knew I wasn’t feeling the people anymore.” After this, people considered him to be the first rapper to fall off (Pierznik, 2015).

Premiering on MTV soon after, Cool J released “Mama Said Knock You Out.” This was the song that helped to revive his career. This song helped restart his career because of its catchy hook and classic Cool J raps. “Mama Said Knock You Out” led him to his first Grammy win. Next came his famous diss track “To Da Break of Dawn,” an attack against Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T and MC Hammer. A lot of people thought this song was another overbearing attempt to help his career stay relevant. Artists like Notorious B.I.G, Snoop Dogg, Wu-Tang Clan, and 2Pac were rising, and most of them had a new sound making it impossible for him to stay at the top. A good move on his part; LL Cool J became himself again, producing sounds that made him seem confident, and prove that he had seen it all. He knew how to dominate with his modern ideas as well as apply his knowledge from past experiences (Pierznik, 2015).

His sixth album was released, and again, he found his way back to the top. LL was featured on a remix for “4, 3, 2, 1” where he called out rapper Canibus, who had previously taken shots towards LL. Before he knew it, LL Cool J was back at the bottom. It seems as though this was a never ending cycle, so LL released “The Rapper Strikes Back.” Canibus accused Eminem of ghostwriting for the track, sparking yet another feud, resulting in a decline in Canibus’s career after his album was a total failure (Pierznik, 2015).

At this point, it had been fifteen years into his career, equating to eight albums, and finally, LL Cool J had a number one album. Predictably, people had something negative to say about this. On this album, he compared himself to 2Pac and Biggie and people did not think he was worthy of that comparison but somehow he still topped the charts. Some called him stubborn, because he was still trying to experiment with new styles and sounds, and was hesitant to conform to the newest and hottest trends to make sure he stayed relevant. This brings up a question within the entire music and style industry; how long was hip-hop “real” if artists felt like they had to do what was popular and would sell more money, rather than producing authentic content that represents who they are and what they came into the industry to do (Pierznik, 2015)?

Even though LL Cool J’s music career was always in the midst of a downfall, his fashion influence was always at its peak. He was known to rock sweatsuits, fat rope chains, and his iconic fuzzy Kangol bucket hat. After his attempt at revival, he started rocking leather top hats instead of his classic bucket hat. Music wise, he knew he had to follow trends, but fashion wise, he was setting the trends. However, he did recreate styles from Dr. Dre and “[adopted] a faux west coast sound and a faux gangsta personality.” After his sixth album, he maintained his calm, cool and collected composure while sporting jerseys and sweats with his new iconic look; sunglasses and visors. He was also known for always wearing one pant leg rolled up. One brand that LL Cool J was known to represent was FUBU. This was “rapper endorsed streetwear…” and Cool J made a point to rock this all the time (Editors, 2014).

With his music career still in the air, LL Cool J decided to do what he wanted rather than what everyone thought would sell the most records. After thirteen albums, he decided he was done. He switched to acting full time… or so we thought. The first time we saw Cool J on the big screen was in 1985, in the movie “Krush Groove.” In 1986 he played a cameo in the movie “Wildcats” and even wrote songs for the soundtrack. An NBC sitcom called “In the House” premiered, and this is when he began acting full time. LL Cool J has also been in seven seasons of NCIS: Los Angeles, he hosts Lip Sync Battle with Chrissy Teagan, and has hosted multiple award shows throughout his career. His acting career was going great, and he was making another name for himself, but in 2013, he released “Authentic,” a mixed genre album that did not do so well (Pierznik, 20115).

Overall, LL Cool J undeniably has had an influence on hip-hop, whether we are discussing past, present or future. He won two Grammys (holding nine nominations), he was the first actor turned rapper that had a success story, and he was the first hip-hop artist turned superstar. His impact in music culture is a story that is needed when discussing the history of hip-hop. Even if we do not recognize him as the greatest of all time, we cannot ignore the fact that whether he was at his height or rock bottom, he inspired everyone to want to do better. His overall style and fashion sense was influential to many as well, in the music world and even the B-Boy community. Guys wanted to be him, and girls wanted to be with him. Throughout all of his struggles, he managed to prove that no matter what, he could, and would, climb back to the top.

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