LL Cool J grew up poor and endured a rough family situation as a child, however, he emerged through it all to become a hugely successful self-made man. LL began his career as a pioneer in hip-hop, and moved on to also become a successful actor. Born in 1968, James Todd Smith was raised in Queens. In his youth, he sang in a church choir, and even got to perform with the choir for the pope in Shea Stadium.
He began rapping as a hobby at the age of 9, and at 13, his grandfather bought him music equipment. In 1984 at age 16, LL mailed a demo tape to local hip-hop producer Rick Rubin of the upstart label Def Jam Records. A young Adam Horowitz (aka AD ROCK) found LL's demo while rummaging around Rubin's dorm room. He liked LL's sound and brought the demo to Rubin's attention, thus setting off a chain of events.