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I Make My Own Rules

I Make My Own Rules

3.0 1
by L. L. Cool J, Karen Hunter, L

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LL Cool J.

Read his story.

Learn from his words.

Make your own rules.


LL Cool J.

Read his story.

Learn from his words.

Make your own rules.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A stellar example of how to endure, grow up and become an adult in the perpetually adolescent world of rap." —The Source

"There are rebels and there are innovators. I'm an innovator." —L.L. Cool J

"Keeping it real ain't about carrying a gun or smoking blunts. It's about being true to yourself and those around you." —L.L. Cool J

"In this business, sex is like candy-plentiful and cheap." —L.L. Cool J

VOYA - Ann C. Sparanese
At the subject's request, there are two editions of this biography of rap musician James Todd Smith, better known as LL (Ladies Love) Cool J: one "Suitable for All Audiences" and a second one, which, according to the book's press packet, is rated "R." I have only seen the former, which has asterisks replacing all the "bad" words. Is this a spoof on those who put the ratings on rap CDs or is this silliness meant to be serious? LL Cool J has been through a lot, including the shooting of his mother and grandfather by his father when he was only four years old; years of physical and emotional torment by a vicious stepfather; and sleeping on subways during a homeless period. But his strong belief in himself and his ability to make music was supported by loving grandparents, whose home in Queens, New York, was a haven for him. How LL started rapping, how his first songs were produced, and how he catapulted to stardom is a modern rags-to-riches story, with many pitfalls. LL fathered two children, but refused responsibility for them; he got into living "large" with hangers-on that ripped him off and steered him wrong to the tune of millions. But he has grown into an adult who translated the hip-hop dictum of "keepin' it real" into "staying tight spiritually." He eventually settled down with the mother of his kids and is involved with motivational programs for youth, including a "Cool to Read Book Club." His own book, LL tells us, was inspired by Oprah's Club. LL addresses the violent deaths of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, and he comments briefly on "gansta" rap, saying it was "born out of... misery, pain, and hunger. It didn't create it." When evaluating the negative lives and influence of some of his peers, LL notes that they are very young when they suddenly find themselves superstars. "You can't expect someone to be a positive role model... overnight. It takes time to realize the power your music has over people. It took me more than ten years. For a lot of artists, they don't get that time. By the time they figure it out, they're finished." LL Cool J now explicitly strives to fulfill role-model expectations. His narrative is a little star-struck, sometimes superficial or naive, and occasionally preachy, but it is generally intelligent, sincere, and positive-a lively and readable memoir by a likeable, motivated, and maturing young musician. A must-purchase where hip-hop culture is part of the scene. Photos. Appendix. VOYA Codes: 3Q 5P M J S (Readable without serious defects, Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
I Make My Own Rules Series
Edition description:
Parental Advisory Edition
Product dimensions:
4.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.65(d)

Read an Excerpt

I could go into great detail, dime people out, dime myself out. For what? The only thing anyone needs to know, the only thing I learned experimenting with drugs is that drugs ain't s***. Drugs aren't the answer. I didn't find any answers in weed, coke, mescaline, or dust. No answers, just a question: Why?

Why was it that when I smoked coke, everybody in the room was my friend. I mean, did all of these jerks suddenly turn into great people? I don't think so, but the drugs could make you believe anything.

Know what I mean?

At a point in time, I even began to do drugs with Cornell. He and I would smoke weed or coke together. And I know he was a real friend. But he did give out stupid advice sometimes. He would say, "Look, stop walking around the goddamn party, sniffing out of everybody's dollar bill. Just go get yourself an eighth and do it by yourself."

Now what kind of advice was that? It was warped. But he thought he was making us sophisticated. He meant well in his own zany way.

If you hang with me today, you'll see that I surround myself with people who don't do drugs. This is a drug-free camp. The most you'll see is allergy medicine. I don't even want beer or any alcohol around. You can tell by my life that it's clean, because I'm not getting into trouble anymore. I'm not getting high, getting drunk, and having women all over the place. I don't bring it into my camp. And I don't allow anyone else to. The atmosphere around me now keeps me focused. And I think it's easier for my troops to respect me when they see me conduct myself in a manner that is worthy of respect.

I think that's important, because it used to be a free-for-all. Everybody was a clown, and so was I. That's why it was so easy for people to rob me or play me out. I was too busy getting high and having girls and drinking my little Cristal and my Moët and my Alizé to notice what was going on around me. In fact, I was drinking so much Alizé I was going to name my son Alizé. No joke. Good thing Simone wasn't having it. I'm sure Najee's glad too.

It wasn't easy to get back in control. Somehow I overcame the drugs and the alcohol. But I needed help. I needed strength. I had to dig deep down inside myself and find who I really was, and force myself to understand what I saw. Lots of people struggle with drugs and various addictions and don't think they can get out. It's not easy. I didn't come through my trials and tribulations without a scratch either. I have scars, and I've left a few scars on others. Roscoe had turned me into a person I couldn't even say was human. Because I knew nothing but pain. I was inflicting pain and receiving pain.

There is a powerful saying in the hip hop community that is like the hip hop motto: Keepin' it real. You ain't nothing, ain't true to the game unless you keep it real. For some, keepin' it real is just being you -- no matter how negative that is. But I totally disagree with that. I'm sure glad I grew up and became real. A real man doesn't behave like a savage.

I grew up surrounded by people who didn't keep it real. My father, who tried to blast my grandfather and mother into eternity with a shotgun, didn't keep it real. Roscoe, who beat me with vacuum cleaner attachments, threw me down stairs, and blew reefer in my face didn't keep it real.

But keepin' it real ain't about carrying a gun or smoking blunts. It's about being true to yourself and those around you, taking care of your family and showing respect for others, being considerate. Men and women who diss and try to kill one another and who abuse drugs and sex ain't keepin' it real.

You know what I'm saying?

Keepin' it real, for me, is about staying tight spiritually. You've got to keep it real with God. You have to keep it real with your internal self, your essence, with that which makes you a human being. With that subconscious power that keeps your blood flowing, that makes you blink when you don't even know it, that makes you breathe without having to think about it. That's what you have to keep it real with -- righteousness.

No, I didn't keep it very real the early part of my career. And I now know that there's a price to pay for not keepin' it real. You think it's okay, that you can get away with that kind of behavior. But it eventually catches up to you. I learned that lesson the hard way.

But not right away.

Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. Copyright © 1997 by James Todd Smith.

Meet the Author

LL Cool J, born James Todd Smith, began rapping at the age of nine. He has won two Grammys and a host of other music awards for his recordings. Six of his albums have gone platinum or multiplatinum. His latest album, Phenomenon, is available on Def Jam Records.

The former star of the TV sitcome In the House, LL Cool J is also an acclaimed actor with numerous movie credits. He has recently finished filming Halloween H2O.

In addition, LL Cool J is a committed public servant who has been a spokesperson for Americorps, Rock the Vote, and numerous other charitable organizations. He is the founder of Camp Cool J, a youth leadership summer camp.

In recent years, LL Cool J has been selected to represent such internationally known brands as Coca-Cola, FUBU, the Gap, and Major League Baseball.

A native of Queens, New York, LL Cool J divides his time between Los Angeles and New York. He lives with his wife, Simone, and his three children, Najee, Italia, and Samaria.

Karen Hunter, an award-winning journalist, is a member of the editorial board at the New York Daily News, where she covers education and writes an occasional pop culture column. She has interviewed many rap artists.

A resident of East Orange, New Jersey, Karen also teaches journalism at New York University.

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I Make My Own Rules 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book I read is called I make my own rules. It deals with a Man with a dream. Not Martin Luther King but he had a dream to be the best M.C. around. He wanted to have the best beats and rhymes made in history of rappers. His name is LL Cool J also known as James. He grew up talking about his childhood life. How he had bad and good times. Mentioned how he met Run-DMC during his open mike night at the Apollo, and about his family and wife and his three kids. What I liked about the book is that it was base on Cool J and how he lived his life in the bad side of his town. James Ruled his town like the number 1 bully he would always carry his switchblade with him if there would be any trouble with him or the friends he new. He¿ll always be there to help them get out of trouble and try telling them to avoid getting thrown in the slammer. Everyone in that lived around James¿s block would know what the deal is. The things I didn¿t like about the book is that is the sad moments. True something might happen to someone but that always gets me. Example of one Cool J had a dog. He would spend his time playing with it. One day his dog got caught hanging from a hole in the backyard he said he tried to reach the basement but was to late. That is the reason I don¿t do sad stories.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book i couldn't put it down. the book was so dramatic and so real it brung tears to my eyes.i made me feel so emotoinal and mushy inside.LL has come alonggg way.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book because he is telling us true things about himself. Yeah of course, you can hear all kinds of rumors about him in magazines or on the news, but when you read his book you know what your reading is true. He's upstraight with all of his fans. He talks about his life from being a child to where he is know. My favorite part was torward the end of the book where he is saying that someone was telling him that he shouldn't put his sex life in it or he should change this and change that, but LL Cool J said no this book is suppose to be about my life and this is my life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to choose one person who influenced my life for a school project.I decided to do LL Cool J. He is an awesome rapper and good guy...this book breaks all them rules it is great...This book gets 5 stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago