What Is LL Cool J’s Real Name?

LL Cool J

Getty Host LL Cool J speaks onstage during "The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute To The Beatles."

LL Cool J is a rapper, actor, and this year, one of the MCs for the 2022 Video Music Awards. Joined by Nicki Minaj and Jack Harlow, the trio “will all be on hand to emcee the VMAs and announce the biggest moments of the night,” MTV announced.

The “NCIS: Los Angeles” actor is no stranger to the VMAs stage. In 1997, he was the first rapper to receive the Vanguard Award, which according to MTV “is presented to artists for their outstanding contributions and profound impact on music video and popular culture.”

He also performed at the award ceremony in 1991 and 1996 and returned as a presenter in 2000.

The “Lip Sync Battle” host has found success under his stage name, with wins at the Grammy Awards, VMAs, NAACP Image Awards, Soul Train Music Awards and even being the first hip hop artist named a Kennedy Center Honoree. But, what is LL Cool J’s real name?

Here is what you need to know:


LL Cool J’s Friends Call Him Todd

While he may be known by millions as LL Cool J, he was born James Todd Smith. He took on the persona, which stands for “Ladies Love Cool J,” when he was 16 years old.

When speaking with Glamour in 2014, he revealed he did not expect the moniker to stick. “The whole Ladies Love Cool J was just wishful thinking,” he explained. “I was 16 and had friends that would make similar names just to try and be cool. I wasn’t having a branding moment at 16! In hindsight, a lot of people look like geniuses, but in hindsight, the stars just line up.”

Those closest to him, including his co-stars, simply refer to him by his middle name, Todd.

“I let everybody call me Todd because I think that (1) It’s more personal and I can connect with people, and (2) I don’t want it to be about my career, my brand, my persona,” he revealed to Glamour. “I’m here working, and I just like Todd Smith on the call sheet. It just keeps it simple. I don’t feel like they’ll take me more serious or anything like that because I’m still LL Cool J on billing, but I think it’s more personal.”


LL Cool J Was Born in 1968

LL Cool J was born the only child to Ondrea Smith and James Nunya on January 14, 1968. He is currently 54 years old.

His parents divorced when he was 4 years old, leaving him to be raised by his mother and her parents, People reports. As he told the outlet in 2003, “I was taught to love, believe in yourself, achieve your goals.”

LL Cool J is no longer a kid, revealing on Twitter that he measures 6 feet 3 inches tall. The rapper shared a photo of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar towering over him, writing, “Caught up with @kaj33 backstage at @hamiltonmusical last night in NYC. A must see… p.s. I’m 6’3″ lol”

The 2022 VMAs air on Sunday, August 28, 2022, at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on HGTV. According to Business Insider, the award show will also air on “BET, CMT, Comedy Central, Logo, MTV2, Nickelodeon, CW, Paramount Network, Pop, TV Land, and VH1.”

READ NEXT: MTV VMAs 2022 Presenters: Who Is Presenting the Awards?

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