One for Hip-Hop
Ladies love cool James, and that’s a fact. This along with his undeniable talent, his influence within hip-hop has earned LL Cool J a head nod from The Kennedy Center. The Washington-based performing arts center holds an annual celebration — Kennedy Center Honors — where they honor someone in performing arts who has changed American culture for the better.
The annual tradition dates back to the late 1970s. Previous winners include Al Green (2014), Herbie Hancock (2012), Meryl Streep (2011), and Oprah Winfrey (2010). Throughout its nearly four decades of existence, a rapper has never been recognized. So, this is a big deal.
For the event, The Kennedy Center pulled out all the stops.
Though the event took place earlier this month (Dec. 3), CBS aired it this week (Tuesday, Dec. 26). The Roots’ Questlove did the intro, where he called LL’s 45-seconds of face time in Krush Groove — an ’80s classic film featuring Kurtis Blow and Run-D.M.C. — “one of the greatest, most important entrances in music history.”
“LL was iconic from the start. He was such a major innovator. He pioneered the whole aesthetic of being an MC,” Questlove said. “He was the first rapper I ever heard remix his own material.” After bringing up LL’s infamous time on MTV Unplugged — where he performed on the network’s first hip-hop episode — Questlove introduced DJ Z-Trip, who kicked off the performances in LL’s honor.
Busta Rhymes and Spliff Star performed “Mama Said Knock You Out.” MC Lyte, who also performed on MTV Unplugged‘s first rap episode, performed “I’m Bad” in her old friend’s honor. Black Thought came out to do “It Gets No Rougher.” Then, lastly, D.M.C. rapped “Rock the Bells.”
Hall of Fame
Earlier this year, LL was also named a member of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class of 2018 nominees. Following his nominations in 2010, 2011, and 2014, this is his fourth time he is being put up to be inducted into the highly-respected group.
In order to even be considered, an artist has to have released a record at least 25 years prior, a requirement LL met in 2009. More than that, LL has had a killer career since he hit the scene in the ’80s. He’s had three certified platinum albums: G.O.A.T. (2000), Mama Said Knock You Out (1990), and Radio (1985). He won MTV’s Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in 97. He’s also received four NAACP Image Awards over the years.
Outside of music, he’s been in countless movies, including B*A*P*S, All That, Woo, Deep Blue Sea, and 30 Rock. He’s hosted the Grammy Awards five times alongside winning two Grammy’s in 1992 and 1997 respectively.
LL is joined by a slew of deserving nominees, inducing but not limited to Bon Jovi, Radiohead, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Nina Simone, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. However, only five artists will be inducted.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame President and CEO Greg Harris shared his thoughts on the group of nominees in a statement shortly after they were announced.
“It’s a remarkably diverse group of artists, and it’s reflective of the diversity of rock n’ roll,” he said. “We have a number of different eras, we have a number of different styles of music, and just a great balance. And any five out of this [list] would make for a wonderful induction class.”
Regardless of whether LL is inducted this year or not, he’s a treasured hip-hop legend. Watch LL’s tribute performances up top. Here’s hoping he is, though!
See if you can catch Rob Reiner throwing up an L sign, then SHARE this article.