LL Cool J Becomes First Rapper to Receive Kennedy Center Honor

Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images
LL Cool J attends the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors on Dec. 3, 2017.

It would appear as if LL Cool J’s career is all about breaking boundaries. On Saturday evening (Dec. 2), LL became the first rapper to earn the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor, which is America’s highest achievement for any performer.  

Along with LL Cool J, singer-songwriter Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, TV creator Norman Lear and dancer-actress Carmen de Lavallade were all on hand to receive their award at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  

The event, while very distinguished, is also top secret and the evening’s honorees usually don’t know who will honor their artistic achievements. The NCIS actor and Lip Sync Battle host has a pretty robust catalogue of music to choose from so whomever is tasked with praising Todd Smith’s musical career, they’ll have a healthy arsenal to choose from. 

<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-version="7" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAABGdBTUEAALGPC/xhBQAAAAFzUkdCAK7OHOkAAAAMUExURczMzPf399fX1+bm5mzY9AMAAADiSURBVDjLvZXbEsMgCES5/P8/t9FuRVCRmU73JWlzosgSIIZURCjo/ad+EQJJB4Hv8BFt+IDpQoCx1wjOSBFhh2XssxEIYn3ulI/6MNReE07UIWJEv8UEOWDS88LY97kqyTliJKKtuYBbruAyVh5wOHiXmpi5we58Ek028czwyuQdLKPG1Bkb4NnM+VeAnfHqn1k4+GPT6uGQcvu2h2OVuIf/gWUFyy8OWEpdyZSa3aVCqpVoVvzZZ2VTnn2wU8qzVjDDetO90GSy9mVLqtgYSy231MxrY6I2gGqjrTY0L8fxCxfCBbhWrsYYAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"></div></div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BcO12eulQSB/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">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</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by LLCOOLJ (@llcoolj) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2017-12-03T07:35:12+00:00">Dec 2, 2017 at 11:35pm PST</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

LL later took to Instagram to speak on the moment and captioned that for hip-hop to be acknowledged was bigger than him.

“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,” LL wrote.

LL Cool J’s achievements haven’t stopped there. Just last week, the 49 year old revealed he completed the Business of Entertainment Media & Sports program at Harvard University.

<blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-version="7" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"><div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50.0% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAABGdBTUEAALGPC/xhBQAAAAFzUkdCAK7OHOkAAAAMUExURczMzPf399fX1+bm5mzY9AMAAADiSURBVDjLvZXbEsMgCES5/P8/t9FuRVCRmU73JWlzosgSIIZURCjo/ad+EQJJB4Hv8BFt+IDpQoCx1wjOSBFhh2XssxEIYn3ulI/6MNReE07UIWJEv8UEOWDS88LY97kqyTliJKKtuYBbruAyVh5wOHiXmpi5we58Ek028czwyuQdLKPG1Bkb4NnM+VeAnfHqn1k4+GPT6uGQcvu2h2OVuIf/gWUFyy8OWEpdyZSa3aVCqpVoVvzZZ2VTnn2wU8qzVjDDetO90GSy9mVLqtgYSy231MxrY6I2gGqjrTY0L8fxCxfCBbhWrsYYAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;"></div></div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"> <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Bb_oC8kFIt4/" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_blank">I Completed the Business of Entertainment media &amp; sports program @harvardhbs it was a life altering experience. Learning is cool... ------ #dreamsdemandhustle #dreamsdonthavedeadlines lets go!!!! Ps. The head of the program &amp; my professor @anitaelberse was absolutely gangster. #ironsharpensiron</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by LLCOOLJ (@llcoolj) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2017-11-27T09:45:58+00:00">Nov 27, 2017 at 1:45am PST</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

The 40th annual ceremony will air on CBS Dec. 26 at 9pm. 

This article originally appeared in Vibe.


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