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I got into it when I was about 9, and since then all I wanted was to make a record and hear it on the radio." This was at the same time that NYU student Rick Rubin and promoter-manager Russell Simmons founded the then-independent Def Jam label.

By using the mixer he had received from his grandfather, Smith produced and mixed his own demos and sent them to various record companies throughout New York City, including Def Jam.

LL won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1992 for the title track.

The album's immense success propelled Mama Said Knock You Out to be LL's top selling album of his career (as of 2002) and solidified his status as a hip-hop icon.

According to Billboard, the album peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200 and was LL Cool J's second #1 R&B Album where it spent four weeks.

In 1990, LL released Mama Said Knock You Out, his fourth studio album.

In the VH1 documentary Planet Rock: The Story of Hip Hop and the Crack Generation, LL Cool J revealed that he initially wanted to call himself J-Ski but did not want to associate his stage name with the cocaine culture (the rappers who use "Ski" or "Blow" as part of their stage name, e.g., Kurtis Blow and Joeski Love, were associated with the rise of the cocaine culture, as depicted in the 1983 remake of Scarface).

Under his new stage name, LL Cool J (an abbreviation for Ladies Love Cool James), That same year, Smith made his professional debut concert performance at Manhattan Center High School.

While Bigger and Deffer, which was a big success, was produced by the L. Posse (at the time consisting of Dwayne Simon, Darryl Pierce and, according to himself the most important for crafting the sound of the LP, Bobby "Bobcat" Ervin), Dwayne Simon was the only one left willing to work on producing LL Cool J's third album Walking with a Panther.After acting in The Hard Way and Toys, LL Cool J released 14 Shots to the Dome.The album had four singles ("How I'm Comin'", "Back Seat (of My Jeep)", the strangely titled "Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag Getting Crushed by Buildings”, “Stand By Your Man") and guest-featured labelmates Lords of the Underground on "NFA-No Frontin' Allowed". LL Cool J starred in In the House, an NBC sitcom, before releasing Mr.The Marley Marl produced album received critical acclaim and eventually went double Platinum selling over two million copies according to the RIAA.Mama Said Knock You Out marked a turning point in LL Cool J's career, as he proved to critics his ability to stay relevant and hard-edged despite the misgivings of his previous album.

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With the breakthrough success of his hit single "I Need a Beat" and the Radio LP, LL Cool J became one of the first hip-hop acts to achieve mainstream success along with Kurtis Blow and Run-D. Rubin's production credit on the back cover reads "REDUCED BY RICK RUBIN", referring to his minimalist production style, which gave the album its stripped-down and gritty sound.