Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

UPDATED 10/20/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 10/20/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT

>LL Cool J

THE MATURING OF COOL JAMES

The winner of this year's MTV Video Vanguard Award, LL Cool J (real name: James Todd Smith), is not only one of the biggest-selling rappers ever, he's probably the most diversified. This fall, the 29-year-old artist is starring in the UPN sitcom In the House in addition to releasing his seventh CD, Phenomenon (Def Jam), and publishing his autobiography, I Make My Own Rules (St. Martin's), which details the abuse he suffered as a child and recounts the exploits of a sex symbol who wasn't dubbed "Ladies Love Cool James" for nothing. In 1995 he married his longtime sweetheart, Simone; they now have three children and live in L.A.

As a mainstream star, how do you keep that tie to the street?

I make honest music. I'm not a liar artistically. I don't try and run from the things that have influenced me to do my best work.

How do you avoid the downside of the industry?

I make decisions on what I think is right and wrong, not greed. I treat others the way I want to be treated. I really pay attention to what I'm doing and work hard.

Why write an autobiography now?

I felt if I didn't show people all the bad that I've done and the mistakes I've made, then I wasn't living up to my responsibility. Yo—what if Tupac had a book like this? You never know what could have happened.

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