LL Cool J At The R&RHOF
LL Cool J. Saquan Stimpson from Newark, DE, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

LL Cool J At The R&RHOF

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He knocked us out. It was his Prince at the Super Bowl moment.

I can’t watch this stuff in real time, I’m not even sure if I care anymore. You’ve got white girls and Tom Hanks blandly testifying as to the greatness of Carole King, who is truly the G.O.A.T., and then Dr. Dre comes out and hits the ball so far over the fence my jaw is still dropped.

Come on. Dre was speaking from the HEART! This wasn’t some star du jour, some entertainer booked for marquee value, this was a superstar of hip-hop laying it down for a guy…

Who most of us thought didn’t belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

But in this performance, he proved that he deserves a spot.

Let’s see… Hip-hop crossed over to white radio, on KROQ, with “The Message.” It was an underground east coast scene that couldn’t be held down. And then the west coast got involved and by time Snoop Dogg and Dre came together, it killed rock and roll. Hell, I haven’t seen a rock performance as good as LL’s in EONS!

But this was a different era, this was when music was still dominant, when it truly defined the culture, the last time this happened. Yes, rock started in the fifties, flowered in the sixties, cleaned up in the seventies and went global in the eighties and by time we got to the end of that decade we had hair bands singing ballads in spandex and then hip-hop came along and wiped the floor.

Of course, we had Nirvana. But no one could keep Kurt Cobain down, he was a rock and roll original, a combination of Carole King and the punk of both the U.K. and England distilled in bite-sized hits and the public couldn’t hold back, they were infected. But after that…

Of course, we had hit rock records. But in the last ten years rock died because it lost its essence, its truth, its sense of melody, its belief that the music is paramount.


Although this is even worse in hip-hop, where becoming a brand is more important than what’s in the grooves. But LL Cool J predates all that. When to paraphrase Max Yasgur, it was about the music, and only the music, and we could all pay fealty in happiness to it.

Well, not the east coast and west coast, but that’s a different subject.

So today we’ve got Kardashians who sing. You can bump your ass to the music, you can shoot selfies, you just can’t be saved. When once upon a time music saved EVERYBODY!

So to tell you the truth, I can fast-forward through anything. Like I needed to see Jennifer Hudson pay tribute to Aretha Franklin one more time? I mean WHY? She’s not the one being inducted, it’s Carole King, who thankfully got her time at the piano, but everything else, Ms. Hudson, was superfluous, she’s not in the Hall and never will be, BECAUSE SHE’S NOT AN ORIGINAL! We don’t want singers, we want something more, people who deliver life itself, who are embodied in the songs, which they make their own, whether it be through their own lyrics, music or both.

So…

The white elite Democrats believe it’s all about education, manipulating the system to stay on top. And then along comes this guy in a silver suit who takes everybody into space. I mean you’re sitting there watching and all you want to do is get CLOSER! This is what music used to specialize in. This is why Chris Stapleton wins all the awards every damn year and the poseurs playing to the lowest common denominator, singing about babies and church, do not. DON’T PANDER! If you can’t risk going into the wilderness, following your own muse, if you need twenty other writers to put it together, you’ve missed the point, we want you to channel GOD, and that’s what LL Cool J did tonight.

I mean the energy, the power, there was more than you get in a rock show. I haven’t yet seen the Dave Grohl parade that closes this show,  but there’s no way it can compete with LL Cool J’s performance. Grohl smiles, he strums his guitar, LL WAS the music. You weren’t distanced, you were drawn in, you wanted to get closer, which is why Black culture runs this country, despite the denigration of the people of color’s power. I mean you don’t want to be so afraid of your girlfriend getting pregnant that you won’t have sex, all the mores, the viewpoints of the scared white people, can’t hold a candle to the message of LL Cool J and Dre and…

Eminem.

Travis Scott brought Drake out at Astroworld as a special guest. Drake is the biggest star in America, maybe the world, but he’s not dangerous, there’s no edge, he’s selling entertainment. LL Cool J was not about entertainment. And just when you thought the roof couldn’t be lifted any higher, Eminem came along and blew it right off.


I mean Em’s got a dark beard, he’s wearing a hat, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t recognize him. But once he opened his mouth, once he poured his words into the mic…the two of them on stage together, it was the musical highlight of a very sad live music year. We think about Covid, and politics, and then LL Cool J and Eminem come out and transcend both, and demonstrate that words and attitude are everything, and if you believe in what you’re doing we can TELL!

Meanwhile, the audience’s heads are exploding as if Oprah gave everybody there a Lamborghini.

And then J.Lo appeared. Why? We all know she can’t sing, we all know her vocals were fixed in post. Carole King comes out looking her age and lays her hands on the piano and puts her mouth to the mic and the years fade away, because when done right music is timeless, and there’s nothing Jenny from the block has ever done that will stand the test of time.

But then thankfully Ms. Lopez left the stage and LL goes right back into it, without missing a beat. He’s not slowing down, he’s got Kiki Dee’s music in him, he’s delivering, all you can do is stand at attention and MARVEL!

And that’s what everybody in the arena was doing, standing. And those who were infected by this music the first time around were mouthing the words, they knew them all by heart, however fast LL was spitting them.

And then, he stopped, and the arena EXPLODED! I mean as great as Paul McCartney is, and we saw him in the audience, there’s no way he could have generated this heat, we’ve all seen his trick, experienced his magic, but LL Cool J was a REVELATION! Some knew, not everybody, but now they’re aware, they’ll never forget it.

I mean remember Prince at the Super Bowl? He came with something to prove, and he did, he superseded the game itself. Quick, who played, who won? I doubt you know, but you remember the purple one delivering on stage.

And even the peripheral dancers worked. BECAUSE OF THE ENERGY! That’s a building block of rock and roll, it’s part of the ESSENCE!

And when the noise quiets down and LL comes to the mic, what does he talk about? HUMILITY! I mean it’s supposed to be the rappers who brag, but LL’s playing it cool. And then he pays respect to the rockers, says how hip-hop was built upon their music. Sure, he thanked God, but not as much as he thanked his mother, you need someone to believe in you, and he mentioned his family, because fame is not enough.


And he also referenced hard work. You may have the dream, but are you willing to do the work? Very few are. LL talked about the rejection before Def Jam took a chance on him. Can you handle it? People have no idea how hard it is to make it, without a safety net. It’s not like LL could have gone to graduate school, gotten a job at his father’s firm, no, this hip-hop thing had to WORK! And he made sure it did.

I’m positively blown away. Do you know how hard it is to impress someone, anyone, with music on TV? Nearly impossible, which is why live music TV ratings are consistently awful. And then LL Cool J comes along and blows all the carbon off the valves, cleans out the pipes, in just a handful of minutes demonstrates why he deserves to be a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, convincing even naysayers like me.

LL… WELCOME!

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