Salute To LL Cool J. He Is Now Hip-Hop’s First Kennedy Center Honoree

Fans have waited four months since it announced, but Hip-Hop has its first Kennedy Center Honoree. LL Cool J was among the five artists celebrated at the honors this weekend in Washington, D.C. The MC, actor, host, and author born James Todd Smith attended the event at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He joined fellow honorees Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, choreographer Carmen de Lavallade and television producer Norman Lear (All In The Family, The Jeffersons, Good Times).

“I believe that we are built to do anything we put our minds and proper actions to. You have all the tools inside you that are required for you to fulfill your God-given purpose. This one is for those who came before me and those who followed me. We were sent to this planet to love and inspire one another. Manifest our dreams and make them a reality. I hope you’re inspired by me because I’m absolutely Inspired by you. Mic check 1212 Let’s ride,” one of Hip-Hop’s first superstars wrote in an Instagram post this morning (December 3). In another post with his fellow honorees, LL wrote, “Truly Honored to be sharing this special moment with this group of extraordinary people.”

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In August, the President and First Lady said they would not be attending an event that has brought out many past Commander-in-Chiefs. Asked about it on Ellen that same month, LL Cool J welcomed that decision. “I’m glad that [Donald Trump] decided not to attend because it would have been a distraction. And it would have been more about who’s standing next to who. And less about the actual art form and the Hip Hop.” The 49-year-old NCIS: Los Angeles star continued, “I’m glad I can just go out there, and it’s about the music. And the culture. And not about a bunch of politics and stuff…I’m not feeding into that. I’m not feeding the machine.”

Less than a week ago, A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip (also a Queens, New York native) stressed the importance of LL Cool J’s Kennedy Center Honors in the face of his group’s final album being omitted from any Grammy nomination. In 2016, Tip was named Hip-Hop Artistic Director of The Kennedy Center. In addition to confirmed Hip-Hop concerts at the popular tourist destination and theater, Q-Tip has spoken about making it an educational platform at a crucial time in American culture.

Early this year, LL Cool J’s DJ, Z-Trip confirmed that self-proclaimed “G.O.A.T. MC” has more than 10 songs completed with Dr. Dre. The past collaborators and 30-plus-year Hip-Hop veterans showed flashes of their latest chemistry in early 2016. He will also launch the Rock The Bells station for SiriusXM in 2018.

Throughout LL Cool J’s career, he has won two Grammy Awards. He has also received NAACP Image Awards for both music and acting. His most recent album is 2013’s Authentic, marking Cool J’s first apart from Def Jam Records.

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Last night’s event airs on CBS on December 28.