When LL Cool J returned home Saturday (Sept. 16) for a late afternoon set at the Meadows Arts & Music Festival in Queens, New York, he took full advantage of the homecoming — and enlisted some of hip-hop’s most legendary artists to make it as special as can be.
Kicking off his hour-long set with “Mama Said Knock You Out,” LL (whose real name is James Todd Smith) asked the crowd, “You ready for some classic hip-hop?” And after declaring “I represent Queens,” LL showed his hometown pride in a major way: bringing out fellow Queens natives A Tribe Called Quest.
With just Q-Tip coming out initially, Jarobi White joined them for an epic rendition of “Award Tour” before paying tribute to the late Phife Dawg. “Phife Dawg forever,” Q said, with LL adding, “He always represented Queens to the fullest. We love you, Phife.”
LL continued the post-Tribe hype with songs like “Headsprung” — during which he brought the line “no need to throw them ones” to life by literally throwing dollar bills into the crowd — and didn’t stop the excitement there. As if bringing out Tribe wasn’t enough, suddenly D.M.C. emerged, and the two made the crowd erupt once more with “It’s Tricky.”
“I may be a little older than you, man, but when your record came out, you made me stay in the house a whole f—ing week to work on my lyrics,” D.M.C. admitted during his cameo. “The old don’t just inspire the young, man.”
Much to the delight of the (impressive) Queens Blvd Stage crowd, LL wasn’t done with the surprises. Near the end of his set, he brought out Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five to sing even more hits like “The Message” to close out his all-star guest list.
As indicated by his passion and his guests, LL was set on convincing the crowd that, despite his other commitments such as starring in NCIS and hosting Lip-Sync Battle, rapping is where his heart is. “I know y’all see me on a lot of shit, but I love hip-hop, that’s my first love,” he said. “We can’t forget where we come from. History is history, we can’t erase it.”
Yet, he wasn’t afraid to poke a little fun at his stacked resume before finishing his set with “Rock the Bells,” acknowledging the reason for his rather early-in-the-day set.
“I’m on early because I gotta film NCIS L.A. and find some terrorists and shit,” he joked before leaving the stage. “I’m not just an actor and a host, I’m a rapper too. I love y’all, Queens, baby.”