LL Cool J Is Now the First Rapper To Receive Kennedy Center Honor


December 4, 2017

Photo credit: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

On Sunday night, James Todd Smith, better known as LL Cool J, officially became the first rapper to receive a Kennedy Center Honor, the nation’s highest award for a performer. At 49, the hip-hop pioneer also made history as the youngest person to receive the prestigious award. 

LL Cool J was honored alongside trailblazing dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, television icon Norman Lear and legendary singers Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan. Estefan also made history as the first Cuban American to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. 


The @KennedyCenter Honors Class of 2017. Truly Honored to be sharing this special moment with this group of extraordinary people. Congratulations to my fellow honorees!!! #KCHonors

A post shared by LLCOOLJ (@llcoolj) on


“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,” LL Cool wrote on Instagram after the official states dinner on Saturday. “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!!” 



Watch LL Cool J make history and receive the award along with this year’s recipients on CBS December 26 at 9 p.m., the time and date the Kennedy Center Honors special is set to air. 

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