LL Cool J’s hip-hop prestige may be lost on some younger Hip-Hop fans who merely know him from NCIS, but now would be a good time to get familiar. The Queens-based MC broke down a lot of doors for hip-hop. He was one of the first signees to Def Jam Records. He was the original “rapper who ladies like and guys respect,” which made him a mainstream star to the tune of sitcoms and a still-going television and movie career. And with a career spanning three decades, he was the original MC with longevity. Even as his musical apex has passed, he’s still achieving, becoming the first hip-hop artist to be named a Kennedy Center honoree.
Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein said, “”The Kennedy Center Honors spotlights the extraordinary careers of five artists whose talent and ingenuity have enriched and shaped cultural life in America.” LL was honored last night along with Gloria Estefan, Lionel Richie, Norman Lear and Carmen de Lavallade.
Not only is LL the youngest of the group, the 49-year-old is the youngest Kennedy Center honoree since Stevie Wonder in 1999. Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter called the artists “creators of the highest order,” a much-deserved kudos for LL’s legendary hip-hop career.