LL Cool J
LL Cool J was born and grew up in Queens, New York City. He signed to Def Jam in 1984 and released the underground hit "I Need a Beat". The song was the first hit record for Def Jam, and its success persuaded him to drop out of school to record Radio (1985 in music). The album was released to critical acclaim, as LL Cool J was one of the first rappers to use conventional song structure to make pop-oriented rap. "I Can't Live Without My Radio" and "Rock the Bells" were successful and helped the album go platinum. In 1987, he released Bigger and Deffer. The ballad "I Need Love" was one of the first pop-rap songs to be a hit. Critics scoffed at his new direction, though, and by the release of Walking with a Panther (1989 in music), he was booed offstage at the Apollo Theater.
Eager to regain his hardcore audience, he released Mama Said Knock You Out, easily the hardest record he had made, which re-established his reputation in the hip hop community. After acting in The Hard Way and Toys, he released 14 Shots to the Dome to muted sales and mixed reviews. He starred in In the House, an NBC sitcom, before releasing Mr. Smith (1995 in music), a double platinum hit. Its singles, "Doin' It" and "Loungin", were two of the biggest songs in 1996 and both songs' music videos were hugely successful on MTV. Another of the album's singles, "Hey Lover", featured Boyz II Men singing the chorus and eventually became one the first rap music videos to air on American VH1. In 1996, LL also helped to launch a clothing line named FUBU; the name is an acronym for "For You, By You", meaning that the clothes were made for and marketed to black people by a black person.