LL Cool J is first rapper to land Kennedy Center honour

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LL Cool J on stage during The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute To The Beatles' in 2014Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
LL Cool J is also the joint youngest receipient at the age of 49

LL Cool J will be the first hip-hop artist to receive a Kennedy Centre honour later this year.

He will be awarded alongside musician Lionel Richie, singer Gloria Estefan, TV writer Normal Lear and dancer Carmen de Lavallade.

The awards annually celebrate arts figures for their contributions to American culture.

LL Cool J tweeted: "To be the first rap artist honoured by the @kencen is beyond anything I could have imagined."

He added: "Dreams don't have deadlines. God is great."

At 49, he ties with Stevie Wonder as the youngest artist to receive the honour.

Set to take place on 3 December in the Kennedy Centre Opera House, this will be the first ceremony to take place under President Trump.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
President Trump angered some with his proposal to scrap the National Endowment for the Arts, which provides arts funding in the US

As is the tradition, the President and First Lady will have dinner with the honourees and a White House reception followed by a range of performances in the Kennedy Center Opera House.

LL Cool J, less commonly known as James Todd Smith, told The Washington Post: "I am blown away. This is the biggest musical award you can receive.

"To be recognised by your country, and to be able to represent hip-hop as an art form is amazing. I'm surprised, grateful, humbled and honoured."

Lear, who created 1970s sitcoms including All in the Family, told the New York Times he would not be attending the ceremony: "This is a presidency that has chosen to neglect totally the arts and humanities - deliberately defund them - and that doesn't rest pleasantly with me."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Stevie Wonder (right) received the honour in 1999

But LL Cool J said he wouldn't be put off.

"I don't have any stunts planned. I'm not saying I need to be there backslapping and all of that, but this time, this one ain't about him," he said, referring to President Trump.

He continued: "I'm not going to block my blessings or let the political divide stop me from embracing my art. I'm banking on the goodness and the optimism of people to say: 'You know what? I get it. Let this guy have this honour.'"

LL Cool J is no stranger to accolades and awards having won two Grammys for best rap solo performance in 1992 and 1997 and four NAACP Image Awards for his role as special agent Sam Hanna in NCIS: Los Angeles.

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