On Thursday, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced the recipients for its 2017 Kennedy Center Honors. For the first time ever, a hip-hop artist has made the list as James Todd Smith, better known as LL Cool J, is among the five artists receiving this year’s Kennedy Center Honors.
Since scoring his first hit at the age of 17 with his song “I Can’t Live Without My Radio”, LL Cool J has blazed his own trail as a hip-hop pioneer turned actor who has maintained longevity in the entertainment industry. Now, at the age of 49, LL Cool J will make history as both the Kennedy Center’s first rapper and youngest person to receive the esteemed honor.
“My late grandmother passed some wise advice to me: ‘If a task is once begun, never leave it ’til it’s done. Be thy labor great or small, do it well or not at all.’ That adage has guided everything I have ever done in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful because it has led me here,” said LL Cool J.
“To be the first rap artist honored by the Kennedy Center is beyond anything I could have imagined. I dedicate this honor to the hip-hop artists who came before me and those who came after me. This simply proves that dreams don’t have deadlines. God is great.”
LL Cool J will be honored along with trailblazing dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, television icon Norman Lear and legendary singers Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan. Estefan will also make history as the first Cuban American to receive a Kennedy Center Honor.
“Each of this year’s Honorees became known to and loved by the world because of their complete originality and bold genius,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “They are creators of the highest order, and as President Kennedy’s living memorial, the Kennedy Center is proud to shine a light on their boundless ‘contributions to the human spirit.'”
Congratulations to all of this year’s honorees! The 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors will be held on December 3 and air on CBS on December 26.