LL Cool J

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  • Year:
    2021
  • Inducted by:
    Dr. Dre
  • Category:
    Musical Excellence
LL Cool J

Def Jam records chose a teenager as their face when ushering in hip-hop's second wave, and 17-year-old LL Cool J made an unforgettable impression. 

Hall of Fame Essay

2021

Amy Linden

'Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years.” That opening line from the title track of LL Cool J’s fourth album, Mama Said Knock You Out, was more than just braggadocio or studio posturing. Those ten words were an instantly iconic and electrifying “I told you so” aimed at sometimey fans and an industry that, five years into a platinum-plus and groundbreaking career, had written LL off as irrelevant. As the explosive success of that song and album would prove, pity the fool that dared to count LL Cool J out.

For more than four decades, rap music has produced a veritable solar system of stars; LL Cool J is one of the most incandescent. He is, to put it simply, foundational. Since 1985, he has recorded a catalogue of classic singles that rock the crowd to this day, including “Doin’ It,” “Hey Lover,” “Around the Way Girl,” “I’m Bad,” “Rock the Bells,” “Going Back to Cali,” “4, 3, 2, 1,” and “Phenomenon,” to name a few. In 2017, LL became the first – and thus far the only – rap artist to receive the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor. He is a two-time Grammy winner, a multiplatinum-selling performer, successful actor, author, and entrepreneur. A fierce battle rapper and razor-sharp wordsmith, LL Cool J is a true child of hip-hop whose music and attitude defined and elevated the culture.

Cover of the 2021 Induction Program Book
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