LL Cool J is known for his gifts as both a hip-hop emcee and an actor on TV shows such as “NCIS: Los Angeles” and movies such as “Krush Groove” and “Any Given Sunday.” But the wealth that he has built over the course of his career is the result of more than his work on stage and screen, but largely from his making the right financial moves at the right time.
Rocking the Bells
Just recently, on Aug. 5, 2023, LL Cool J hosted the second-annual Rock the Bells festival, celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. LL leads the Rock the Bells platform that celebrates hip-hop culture. In April, he raised $15 million through Series B funding. But this business move is just one in a series of strategic moves that has allowed LL Cool J to grow as an artist and a businessman.
LL Cool J reportedly has a current net worth of $120 million. In a recent interview with “The Breakfast Club,” the hip-hop pioneer shared how he began his career in the entertainment industry at 16. In 1984, LL Cool J signed to Def Jam Recordings and released the single “I Need A Beat.”
“My first single I ever made I didn’t have a contract.” LL Cool J told “The Breakfast Club.” “It was just like, ‘Yo, let’s go get it and we’ll figure it out.’ Sometimes you gotta be willing to crawl over the barbed wire fence with no shirt on to get what you want.”
Strategic Business Moves Lead To Wealth
Following the release of “I Need A Beat,” LL Cool J signed a 10-album recording deal with Def Jam. His debut album, “Album,” followed.
“That first contract, at the time, we split the publishing,” he recalled during his interview. “They gave me like $50,000.”
The deal reportedly included albums such as “Bigger and Deffer,” “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “10.”
As one of the greatest recording artists on Def Jam, LL Cool J had equity in the label, which he sold. However, LL Cool J still owns the exclusive rights to his albums, a fact he revealed on “Sway’s Universe.”
“I’ve owned them for 20-something years,” he said during an interview with Sway. “So when you hear ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ in a movie and stuff like that, like, I’ve licensed those songs … I own all them joints.”
Acting, Brand Ambassador and Further Ownership
As LL Cool J’s fame continued to expand, he became an ambassador for an urban brand, FUBU. He was featured in several commercials and advertisements, and even included the brand in his lyrics. During the interview with “The Breakfast Club,” he also revealed that he was an owner of the brand as well.
On the acting side, LL Cool J also took on the opportunity for ownership. With “NCIS: Los Angeles,” he played Sam Hanna in the series that ran for 14 years, and had ownership in the series.
He also has ownership with “Lip Sync Battle,” a show he starred in for five years.