Sunday, May 25, 2003

LL Cool J keeping his cool at his grandma's request

By Chris Jordan
Gannett News Service

The lyrical battles have been many for rapper LL Cool J, and the result is always the same.

A knockout for LL.

However, the victor hasn't necessarily relished the battles. "The energy being spent making a record to destroy somebody else can be energy spent making a record that can uplift some people," the 35-year-old LL says. The rap battle has long been a staple of hip-hop. Some have had seemingly tragic results - many say the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. were an outgrowth of their lyrical battles - but often the sparring can invigorate a career.

In the past, LL has faced off with Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T and the former Wyclef Jean protege, Canibus, and he's always kept it peaceful.

"When it comes to hip-hop, I try to represent it to the fullest," LL says. "I can't say I won't battle again, and I can't say I will battle again, (but) I prefer not to."

While LL isn't presently in a battle, he has been in a high-profile position lately. His Jennifer Lopez duet, "All I Have," from his hit album, 10, recently topped the Billboard singles chart for four weeks straight.

There are no battle tracks and there is no profanity on 10, which also features the hits single "Luv U Better" and "Paradise."

LL has kept the record positive as a result of a promise he made to his dying grandmother.

"I had made a couple albums and they had profanity and it always bothered her," says LL, born James Todd Smith, the name he uses for his burgeoning acting career. "It was just time for there to be some positivity. I know it's hip-hop, and I know the majority has to be a certain way, but I just wanted there to be some positive energy in it. If that costs me a half-million in sales, then the heck with it."

LL Cool J started out as a skinny kid from Queens who emerged on the scene in 1984 with the release of the 12-inch single "I Need A Beat."

LL's first album was Radio in 1985, and he soon built a reputation as a rapper with a talent for rhyming over slamming beats or changing up the flow and crooning R&B-infused love ballads.

But LL's career will probably always be defined by the 1990 verbal riposte he gave those who said his career was in decline.

The albums and singles have continued for LL, but since the mid-1990s, he's been just as busy handling numerous acting roles. LL starred in the TV sitcom In the House from 1995-'99, and was featured in the movies Rollerball (2002), Deliver Us from Eva (2002), Deep Blue Sea (1999), and Any Given Sunday (1999), to name just a few.

LL, a married father of four, has become one of the few rappers to remain on top of the charts while maintaining a vibrant movie career.

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