LL Cool J
LL Cool J boasts one of the longest and most successful careers in the history of hip-hop. The Queens native first made waves in 1984 with "I Need a Beat," one of the first records released on Russell Simmons' powerful Def Jam label. The muscle-bound teenager quickly proved he was no one-hit wonder, and his 1985 debut, Radio, rocked boom boxes across the land, thanks to hits like the title track and "Rock the Bells." His follow-up, Bigger and Deffer, proved a turning point: Its two breakout singles, "I'm Bad" and "I Need Love," crossed him over to a mainstream audience, but also drew plenty of haters, including Ice-T and Kool Moe Dee. As a result, LL has often fought to reclaim his rap throne -- with battle tracks like "Jack the Ripper" and "To Da Break of Dawn" -- while wooing pop and R&B fans with hits like "Around the Way Girl" and "Hey Love." Now an established pop icon, Uncle L has successfully ventured into television (the cop drama NCIS: Los Angeles) and films (Any Given Sunday). But he continues to release albums on a regular basis, with 1991's Mama Said Knock You Out being a creative and commercial highlight.