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Connector of the Day LL Cool J: Trailblazer, Superstar, Artist, Actor, Author

Aired June 7, 2010 - 16:48:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): He was one of the defining trailblazers of rap in America and has maintained superstar status for nearly 30 years, but for LL Cool J life is more than celebrity and fame. The 42-year-old rapper, whose real name is James Todd Smith, started recording his own songs at the age of 16 and adopted his stage name, which stands Ladies Love Cool James. In 1985, he signed with Def Jam records and today boasts 11 albums, eight of which have gone platinum.

(INAUDIBLE) has also gone on to make himself a formidable force in the film world, staring in movies such as "The Last Holiday" with Queen Latifah and the currently hit show "NCIS: Los Angeles." He's also written two books on healthy living and his latest "Platinum 360 Diet & Lifestyle" explores both the emotional and physical necessities to stay grounded.

A true jack of all trades, LL Cool J is your "Connector of the Day."


ANDERSON: I sat down with LL Cool J when he was here in London and I started by asking him -- well, what the new book was about. This is what he said.


LL COOL J, MUSICIAN & ACTOR: I think, for the most part, most of us know what we need to do, whether it's exercise or eating a certain way or, you know, getting our spirit together. We all kind of get an inkling. Once you get to a certain age, I think people understand it. I think it's more about just kind of a little refresher, you know, even for me, you know, reading it, rereading it.

ANDERSON: You look really fit.


ANDERSON: Are you fit?

LL COOL J: I am fit. Yes, I'm pretty fit.


LL COOL J: I'm pretty fit, yes.

ANDERSON: Listen, it also talks about the ups and downs of celebrity culture. Just walk me through.

LL COOL J: It's not so much about me per se, it's more about just us as human beings and our journey and what it takes to, you know, be successful. How not to -- how to bless other people's success and be happy for them as opposed to envying --

ANDERSON: How do you want people to use the book then?

LL COOL J: As a lifestyle guide. Just a guide -- you know, just you would use the navigation in your car to kind of help you get to that destination that you want to get to.

ANDERSON: What a good analogy.

Do you feel like the world you live in, the celebrity world, has changed a lot over the last 20 years, cause you've been around for a bit?

LL COOL J: Yes, I've been round quite a bit. Yes, it has changed. I think that there are nowadays it's a lot easier to be famous for something other than art. You can be famous for nothing. You can be famous because you got out of the limo with a certain dress on. You can be famous for -- you know, anything. And I think that that has changed.

But other than that, I think that at the end of the day, art is art. And when I say art, I mean acting, singing, painting, writing, sculpting, directing, you know, telling stories, theater. You know, art is art.

ANDERSON: And rap of course. Rap -- I mean, you were one of the first. I mean, one of the first to hit the big time anyway.


ANDERSON: What do you think of the current rap environment?

LL COOL J: First of all, let me qualify the remark by saying that there are a lot of talented people out there. But that being said, I think that there's a lot of following going on and it seems like bean-counters and guys that are counting widgets, for lack of a better word, are making the creative decisions because a lot of things sound like the last thing that worked. So there's this kind of -- it just seems like a lot of people making a lot of music to be accepted.

You know, when you think about guys like John Lennon and you think about Jimi Hendrix and you think about Leonard Cohen and you listen to, you know, some of those great artists and the music Janis Joplin and some of the writers, when you listen to the songs and the type of music that was being created, that was just a whole other level.

ANDERSON: Should we expect something from you anytime soon?

LL COOL J: Yes, I'm going to record a new record, but my thing is just that, the reason it's taking so long is because I absolutely refuse to -- I can't compromise my standards and try to create something with radio in mind or overpay some producer because he's the hit guy of the moment to give me a song that sounds like something regurgitated pop record from last year, I can't do it. So I have to take my time and just think about it.

But I plan on making a new record, it's just -- it just has to be something a little stronger than just me pretending that I'm, you know, going to be 15 forever.

ANDERSON: Let's get to some viewer questions.

Damian has written to us. He says, "How would you feel about a recurring role on '30 Rock' and did you enjoy working with that cast?"

LL COOL J: Did I enjoy "30 Rock"? Yes, it was great. It was a lot of fun. Tina Fey is great. I actually went to her party during the "up fronts" in New York when CBS had their "up fronts" in New York and went to Tina Fey's birthday party.

ANDERSON: How was the party?

LL COOL J: It was great. They were singing like country music and like a -- like in the middle of New York City. It was just like -- you know, that's the part of Tina Fey --

ANDERSON: Would you have done that 20 years ago?

LL COOL J: Yeah -- no.


LL COOL J: You know, they were singing. It was crazy. Rhinestone Cowboy, oh oh. You look outside, it's the skyline.


LL COOL J: I'm like -- what? I'm there with my agent, he's standing there, "I didn't know. I didn't know."

No, but I like country music. I actually went to the country awards; I had a great time.

ANDERSON: James says he loves NCIS and asks, " Can you see yourself doing another season?"

LL COOL J: Oh, yes, definitely. The show -- I can see myself staying, the show got picked up, and I want to stay with the show for the, you know, for the full run as long as we can. I'd like to -- I'm committed to the show. I enjoy it, I have a good time.


LL COOL J: Thank you.

ANDERSON: Doctorsinn says, "Can 'true' rap music ever come back like fashion, will we see it again?" And he says, "Can you see yourself leading the way with a new genre?"

LL COOL J: Yes, I think it can be done and I have some ideas on how I can at least show people. I have some ideas about how I can push the genre forward, but I guess I would have to let the music do the talking, cause anybody can sound good before you push play.


LL COOL J: You're a hell of a singer, till you push play.



ANDERSON: LL Cool J, your "Connector of the Day."

And tomorrow our "Connector of the Day" is a singer from a very different genre. The Scottish-born star Annie Lennox has been showered with awards during her decades long career and tomorrow at this time, she'll be answering your questions. Do get involved,