LL Cool J has become the first rapper to receive the prestigious Kennedy Centre Honour at the weekend, in a ceremony which also recognised Gloria Estefan and Lionel Richie.
The ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ hitmaker was recognised with the US’ highest achievement for a performer in a ceremony on Saturday (02.12.17) evening, with Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, ‘All in the Family’ producer Norman Lear and dancer-and-actress Carmen de Lavallade also picking up the accolade at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C..
The ‘Lip Sync Battle’ star was introduced to the room by Darryl ‘D.M.C.’ McDaniels, who said it was “crazy” for a rap star to be included, a sentiment echoed by LL Cool J, who described himself and his friend as “the guys on the other side of the tracks”.
He added: “I want you to know that the inner city is a whirlpool. Every now and then somebody like me will make it out.
“What you’re looking at is possibilities – what every young inner-city black man could potentially be if given the opportunity and if someone put their arm around him.”
And after the event, the ‘Phenomenon’ singer paid tribute to other hip hop stars on his Instagram account.
He wrote: “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!! #KCHonors #StateDepartmentDinner #hiphop (sic)”
Kenneth Edmonds, who is better known as Babyface, praised Lionel as a “surprisingly nice” guy for a “superstar genius”.
The ‘Hello’ singer opened his speech by saying “I love you”, noting his fans always want to hear him say that.
He added: “I’m in the business of reminding the world that love is the answer.”
Gloria was honoured by Rita Moreno, actress-and-choreographer Debbie Allen toasted Carmen, and journalist Bill Moyers celebrated Norman.
The event is usually attended by the President and First Lady, but President Donald Trump avoided a showdown in August when he revealed he and wife Melania would not be attending, following Norman’s declaration he wouldn’t attend if the controversial US leader was there, while other artists had expressed an unease at meeting him.
Kennedy Center officials previously admitted they were “grateful” to the couple for not attending.
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter and Chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a statement: “In choosing not to participate in this year’s honor’s activities, the administration has graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the honours gala remains a deservingly special moment for the honourees.”
Ahead of the intimate ceremony, the honourees attended a state dinner the evening before.