EW.com tells you how he overcame problems to do it, and who else is scoring on the charts

By Craig Seymour
Updated September 21, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT
Cool J: Gregg de Guire/LFI

Ego problem, or statement of fact? LL Cool J ‘s chest thumpingly titled ”…The Greatest of All Time” debuts at No. 1 on this week’s Billboard album chart, selling 208,000 copies. ”I thought it was a better title than ”LL Cool J, the Pretty Good Rapper,” he tells EW.com. But seriously, the hyphenate hip hop star says he took a break from his thriving acting career to serve his longtime supporters: ”There are fans out there who’ve bought every album since I came out. And I think they deserve an album. That’s why I did it.”

LL’s grand stand knocks Nelly — who has held the top spot for the past five weeks – down to No. 2, and bumps Eminem to No. 3. And LL isn’t the only established act debuting in the top five this week. Boyz II Men land at No. 4 with their first album in three years, ”Nathan Michael Shawn and Wanya.” (Who knew they actually had names?) And those cheeky Barenaked Ladies come in at No. 5 with ”Maroon,” featuring their top 40 modern rock tune ”Pinch Me.”

Still, the week’s biggest surprise is LL’s No. 1 finish, especially given his album’s rocky road. The first single, ”Imagine That,” stalled at No. 46 on the R&B chart last month, which caused the disk’s release date to be pushed back from Aug. 22 to Sept. 12. ”I needed two more weeks to try to get the excitement going,” explains Kevin Liles, President of LL’s label Def Jam. ”I went into emergency 911 mode, thinking, Oh shit, I’ve spent $2.5 million in marketing expenses and my record’s not doing right.”

To jump start the album campaign, Liles shipped LL off on a flesh pressing promo tour, even though he was in the middle of filming the remake of ”Rollerball” in Montreal. ”We had LL Cool J days in 20 cities,” says Liles. ”I got him out on the road doing ‘in stores’ and going to radio stations.” Def Jam also released a vinyl only single to DJs to generate street buzz (”Take It Off”) and gave radio ”You and Me,” which features vocals by Kelly Price (who just had a Top 20 R&B hit, ”As We Lay”). All of which, according to Liles, helped the hip hop vet score his first No. 1 album.

Meanwhile, in other chart news, the debuts of LL, Boyz II Men, and Barenaked Ladies knock top five staples Creed (No. 6 this week), Britney Spears (No. 7), and ‘N Sync (No. 8) down a few notches. Rockers 3 Doors Down fall two spots to No. 9. And the hit packed ”NOW! 4” drops to No. 10. This week also saw notable debuts outside of the top 10. Christina Aguilera’s Spanish language ”Mi Reflejo” comes in at No. 27. And Joan Osborne’s long awaited comeback ”Righteous Love” places a disappointing No. 50. Hey, maybe she should have titled it ”The Greatest of All Time, Too!”

(Additional reporting by Tom Sinclair)