LL Cool J: The Stories Behind The Songs

James Todd Smith, aka Ladies Love Cool James, aka, LL Cool J, got nostalgic for an interview with Entertainment Weekly magazine. LL looks back at some of his biggest hits over the past three decades and gives us the low-down on what inspired him.  Learn the inside scoop and enjoy some of the best old-school jams of all-time!




The best dance groove of LL Cool J’s discography was his 1990 smash, Around The Way Girl from his “Mama Said Knock You Out” CD.   This was his first song to make the Top 10 on Billboard’s singles chart.  True old school hip hop from the beat (a sample of the Mary Jane Girls was prominent), the attitude, and those vintage lyrics: “I like a girl wit extensions in her hair, Bamboo earrings, at least two pair,  A Fendi bag and a bad attitude, That’s all I need to get me in a good mood”.


A sexy woman purrs in the intro, “Go ahead daddy”, LL comes back with “it’s a Queens thing baby”.  For a rap artist who is the definition of “old school”, LL Cool J took some chances in 1996 by adding an R&B girl group, Total, and the hottest dance duo producers of the 90s, Trackmasters, for the remix of his third single from the Mr Smith album.   “Loungin” featured a Al B. Sure sample and went to #3 on the Hot 100.


The Entertainment Weekly article quoted LL as saying this was out of his comfort zone.  At first he hated this Rick Rubin song but over time, it became one of his career highlights.  From the bluesy saxophone solo, the “dusty alternative” style, and the honor of having Notorious BIG use the riff on his album, “Going Back To Cali” is unlike any other song LL Cool J has ever recorded.


No other rapper at the time would dare release something as soft and emotional as LL Cool J’s “I Need Love”.   The song became a big seller but a big hit to the street cred of a young New York rapper in the volatile rap game.   As time went on, people respected his decision to break the rap rules and go out on a limb releasing a rap slow jam.  Here’s a lesser known follow-up ballad in the same style from his Walking With A Panther CD.


The 21st Century hasn’t been as kind to LL Cool J’s music career.   His latest sexy single, “Ratchet” crashed and burned.   Like his proteges, Will Smith and Ice Cube, their biggest recent success has been on the movie and TV screens.  Yet, every so often, they drop a club banger like “Rub My Back” to remind us that authentic retro hip hop is still around.