But his new movie, In Too Deep, has him cast as a ruthless drug kingpin named God. CBS News This Morning Co-Anchor Mark McEwen reports.
For the last 15 years LL Cool J has been in the entertainment business. He came on to the music scene in the early 1980s as a hip-hop rapper. He music career has brought him two Grammy awards and eight consecutive platinum albums.
Last year LL Cool J starred with Jamie Lee Curtis in the film Halloween H20, marking the first time that he appeared without his trademark hat. He often jokes that he then made history as one of the first black actors to survive in a horror film.
"It felt good to be in a position where they would let me live, and my character got to grow and evolve a little bit and have some fun," he says.
New film In Too Deep is partly based on a true story that took place in Boston. It takes a look at the multifaceted, ruthless world of organized street crime, from the perspective of police, drug dealers and all the people that fall somewhere in the middle.
Despite the violence in the film, LL Cool J says he is glad he was a part of it.
"I felt it would be an opportunity to stretch as an actor. You know when I see Robert Duvall...and Al Pacino,Â…they stretch out and do a lot of different roles," he says, adding that he wanted to show his depth as an actor.
LL Cool J hopes his character is one young people will not strive to become Â– that they see the wrong in a character like this. He wouldn't suggest younger kids would see the movie and that parents will do their job monitoring what their kids see.
"If they were 15, 16 and 17, I would definately let them see it and allow it to open up some dialogue. And we could talk about these characters - talk about how easy it is to be seduced into this type of lifestyle," he says.
And he explains: "These are the characters that are really destroying, you know, the souls of our youth. So let's let them see it, shock them with it and then talk about it so that they know what to look out for."
LL Cool J points out that although the gangster genre is a brutally graphic one, this film has redeeming qualities since the violence is not glorified or gratuitous.
"When you walk away from this film, you feel like, you know what? I would never want to live their lifestyle. I would never want be a part of what these people are a part of. I think that's a good thing," he adds.
The New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin recently called LL Cool J's performance "impressive." So how does a rapper learn to act?
"I have a great teacher named Aaron Spizer," he says. "I'm just one of those guys who believe in going out and getting it. I take classes. I study. I read everything in te world that I can find on acting."
And he also gives credit to his good luck: "I got an opportunity to work with a lot of fantastic actors, from Al Pacino...to Stanley Tucci. So I'm just lucky enough to be able to just work with these people and just learn," he says.
LL Cool J currently stars in the film Deep Blue Sea, and this fall he will appear in Oliver Stone's new film, Any Given Sunday, with Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz and James Woods.
"[There's] no school like having Oliver Stone direct you in a movieÂ….This is the best school in the world for me in the world," he declares.
Currently working on the release of his eighth album, he recently launched his own record label, Rock the Bells Entertainment.
Visit the official Web site for In Too Deep.
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