"Something like a phenomenon": LL Cool J to celebrate 50th birthday Sunday
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ABC/Lou RoccoRap icon LL Cool J (short for Ladies Love Cool James) turns the big 5-0 on Sunday. 

The Queens, New York native, born James Todd Smith, released his first-ever single, "I Need a Beat" and debut album, Radio, in 1985. 

But it was his second album, Bigger and Deffer, in 1987 that pushed LL into the mainstream with extraordinary success. 

The disc spent 11 weeks at number one on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and made it within the top ten on the Billboard 200. Bigger and Deffer also featured his hit singles "I'm Bad" and "I Need Love."  

After Radio, and Bigger and Deffer, came the release of eleven more commercially and critically acclaimed studio projects, including his fourth album Mama Said Knock You Out in 1990, his sixth album Mr. Smith in 1995, Phenomenon in 1997 and his most recent album, Authentic in 2013.  

LL Cool J has also won two Grammy awards, two MTV Video Music Awards and several NAACP Image Awards and Soul Train Music Awards.

In addition, he's carved a notable acting career for himself, with roles in a variety of television shows and films such as OzIn Too DeepAny Given SundayDeliver Us from EvaHouse and 30 Rock. He currently stars as Special Agent Sam Hanna in the CBS police procedural series, NCIS: Los Angeles.

LL received his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016.

In December, LL became the first rapper to receive the Kennedy Center Honor award, alongside Lionel Richie, singer-songwriter Gloria Estefan, legendary TV writer-producer Norman Lear and renowned dancer-choreographer Carmen de Lavallade [LAAH-vaah-laahd].  

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