LL Cool J to be First Rapper to Receive Kennedy Center Honors

LL Cool will become the first Kennedy Center’s first rapper honoree at the 40th annual ceremony. Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

LL Cool J will become the first solo rapper to receive the Kennedy Center’s presidential honor. The 40th annual Honors ceremony, set for Sunday, December 3rd, will also recognize Gloria Estefan, Lionel Richie, Norman Lear and dancer-choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, the New York Times reports.

In a humble statement about the induction, LL Cool J (born James Todd Smith) told the Times he is proud to help “knock the door down for a new genre.” “To be able to come from the corner of Farmers Boulevard in Queens, banging on a garbage can, all the way to the Kennedy Center Honors, that’s a long journey.”

The rapper also stressed the importance of separating politics and art. “I don’t have any stunts planned. I’m not saying I need to be there backslapping and all of that, but this time, this one ain’t about him,” he said, alluding to President Trump. “I’m not going to block my blessings or let the political divide stop me from embracing my art. I’m banking on the goodness and the optimism of people to say: ‘You know what? I get it. Let this guy have this honor.'”

The rapper’s induction marks the Kennedy Center’s move to improve diversity at the Honors event. In 2016, the Center selected A Tribe Called Quest rapper Q-Tip as their first artistic director for hip-hop culture.

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SOURCE: Rolling Stone, Ryan Reed

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