The 56th Annual Grammy Awards

How LL Cool J Got His Name

Yahoo Music

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Photo: Gabe Ginsberg, FilmMagic

Nearly 30 years after releasing his debut album, "Radio," Grammy-winning hip-hop superstar and actor LL Cool J still has one of the best monikers in the business.

The "NCIS: Los Angeles" star born James Todd Smith turns 46 Tuesday and says he developed the name in stages.

First, LL dubbed himself J-Ski, taking cues from rappers Luvbug Starski, Busy B-Starsky and others. But he decided to come up with something more unique.

He then adopted the title Cool J because he thought it would be timeless. "It seems like cool has been around since the beginning of time," he said in the book "Hip Hop Stars."

Even though he liked Cool J, he continued to look for ways to fine tune it. During a conversation with his friend, fellow rapper Playboy Mikey D, they discussed changing it to Ladies Love Cool James.

The connotation that he was a ladies' man was ambitious at the time, LL said during an interview with Katie Couric. "I promise you, it was completely wishful thinking," he said with a laugh. "I was a little kid just hoping."

Throughout his career, though, LL has gained a wealth of adoring female fans and recorded numerous hit ballads including "I Need Love," "Around the Way Girl" and "Hey Lover." But when Couric asked what his wife called him, he laughed.

"Not Ladies Love Cool J," he said. "That's for sure. She calls me Todd."

The rap legend said he eventually shortened his stage name to LL Cool J for marketing purposes. "When we made the records, we decided to make it LL because Ladies Love would look a little ridiculous and a little long on a piece of vinyl," he told Couric.

LL Cool J will host the 56th Annual Grammy Awards on Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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