‘NCIS: Los Angeles’: LL Cool J Became a Solo Artist Because His Group Didn’t Believe Him

NCIS: Los Angeles star LL Cool J is known for playing Sam Hanna on the hit CBS show. However, he’s also known for being a successful rap artist. Here’s the story behind why LL Cool J decided to go solo.

A life-changing moment caused LL Cool J to suddenly change his career path

LL Cool J in 1985 | Sony Music Archive via Getty Images/Terry Lott
LL Cool J in 1985 | Sony Music Archive via Getty Images/Terry Lott

Back in 2015, Queen Latifah asked LL Cool J what led him to choose earning an honest living over engaging in illegal activity. The rapper says there was an event that had a major impact on him and convinced him to navigate away from that lifestyle:

Growing up, I wanted to make money. That was my thing. I didn’t get into music for money, because I really love music and I love entertainment. But as a young kid growing up in the ghetto, I definitely without a doubt wanted to be the guy with the nice car. I did not want to be the guy standing on the corner with my shoes turned over. I was attracted to the hustlers in the neighborhood and I was attracted to the drug dealers in the neighborhood.

There was a point just when I was considering going in that direction, and that life, that my friend went to jail. Right at that moment. That was right before I made my very first album. And when he went to jail, it was kind of like a wake-up call for me, and I decided to channel all of that hunger and that desire into music.

The real reason LL Cool J is a solo artist

During an interview for Oprah’s Master Class, LL Cool J explains why he became a solo artist. The way he explains it, the choice was pretty much made for him. The group he was rapping with didn’t believe he received an opportunity to make a record with producer Rick Rubin, former co-president of Columbia Records and co-founder of Def Jam Recordings. LL Cool J had no choice but to move on without them:

[Jay] Philpot used to take me to the parties; that’s my man. I love Jay. It’s funny, because I remember when I was working, trying to get the record deal, and I finally got in contact with Rick Rubin, I used to tell Jay Philpot, ‘Yo, I got this guy Rick Rubin, and we’re going to go down, he wants me to go down and make a record. And [my rap group] used to always think I was lying. It was the craziest thing.

Philpot was like, ‘Don’t have me going down here and you’re lying.’ They used to think I exaggerated. One of the main reasons I ended up a solo rap artist is because the guys that were in my rap group didn’t believe me when I told them, ‘We got this opportunity with Rick Rubin. We could go down there and make a record.’ They didn’t believe me. So, I made it by myself.

Read more: ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’: LL Cool J’s Biggest Fashion Regret