Manhasset’s LL Cool J first rapper to be honored by Kennedy Center

Amelia Camurati
LL Cool J became the first hip hop artist to be honored by the Kennedy Center last weekend. (Photo by Tracey Salazar)

A New York native and North Shore resident became the first rapper honored by the Kennedy Center in Washington last weekend.

LL Cool J, also known as James Todd Smith, of Manhasset was honored alongside dancer Carmen de Lavallade, singer Gloria Estefan, television producer Norman Lear and singer Lionel Richie on Sunday at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ 40th annual event.

Kennedy Center Honors inductees are,
from left, back row,
LL Cool J and Lionel Richie. Front row, Carmen de Lavallade, Norman Lear and Gloria Estefan. (Photo by John Paul Filo, CBS)

“The Kennedy Center Honors spotlights the extraordinary careers of five artists whose talent and ingenuity have enriched and shaped cultural life in America,” Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a statement. “… Landmark rap artist LL COOL J taught the world how to rhyme as one of the pioneers of the Hip Hop phenomenon.”

On Saturday, LL Cool J and his fellow recipients were honored by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a State Department dinner for the medallion presentations to the honorees.

Born in Bay Shore, LL Cool J has lived across Long Island in Port Washington, Manhasset, Melville and Queens as well as Los Angeles and Manhattan.

LL Cool J released his album “Radio” in 1985 when he was 17. The record sold 500,000 copies in the first five months and surpassed one million sales by 1988.

LL Cool J thanks the crowd during a round of applause for the artist. (Photo by Tracey Salazar)

The record’s hit single “I Need a Beat” catapulted LL Cool J into mainstream success and was one of the first hip-hop acts to do so alongside Kurtis Blow and Run DMC.

His second album, “Bigger and Deffer,” was his highest selling album with more than three million copies in the United States. The album spent 11 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B albums chart and peaked at No. 3 on the pop chart.

To date, LL Cool J has released 14 studio albums and recorded 60 singles as the lead artist as well as 10 as a featured artist.

The ceremony will air at 9 p.m. on Dec. 26 on CBS. During the show, honorees are saluted by top performers across the country.

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