LL Cool J made history on December 3 when he became the first Hip Hop artist to be honored during the Kennedy Center Honors. The 40th annual event aired on Tuesday night (December 26) and featured a colorful tribute to the Radio legend-turned-actor.
With DJ Z-Trip behind the decks, Busta Rhymes exploded onto the stage dressed in a red bucket hat and all-red tracksuit to perform LL’s 1990 hit “Mama Said Knock You Out” with fellow Flatbush, Brooklyn native Spliff Star hyping up the crowd.
Then, MC Lyte grabbed the mic to rap 1987’s “I’m Bad” before The Roots’ Black Thought kicked his version of 1989’s “It Gets No Rougher.” Finally, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC closed out the medley with a rendition of 1985’s “Rock The Bells.”
Ahead of the spirited musical tribute, Queen Latifah introduced Ladies Love Cool James with a brief history of his life and Questlove delivered a speech about LL’s impact on not only him but also all of Hip Hop.
The Queens powerhouse was honored along with an elite group of cultural icons, including singer Gloria Estefan, dancer/choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, TV writer Norman Lear and singer Lionel Richie.
LL later took to Twitter to express his gratitude for the momentous honor.
“I want to personally thank every single one of you !!,” he wrote. “You bought the songs you attended the concerts!! You called the radio stations!! “You” inspired me!!! You’ve been with me the whole time. I love you #HIPHOP!! ‘WE’ MADE HISTORY!!! #KCHonors.”
Check out photos of the Kennedy Center Honors below.