The rap icon earned his first nomination in 2010 but was denied entry in that go-round. He was shortlisted again in 2011, 2014 and 2018, but, for whatever reasons, the nominating committee denied him each of those times.
LL has the longevity and the proven stats that make him worthy for induction. First, he’s the most influential rapper in hip-hop. He has released 13 rap albums, seven of which have gone platinum. He has seven No. 1 rap singles. He has written four books. Finally, at 50 years old, LL can still rock the mic better than some of today’s young rappers.
But that’s only a smidgen of his accomplishments. From rapping to acting to writing, LL Cool J is hip-hop’s first Renaissance man. So it’s time to let him in. In 2016, when a TMZ photographer asked him if he should be inducted into the Rock Hall he replied, “It’s for the people to decide. I’d love to be in.”
If the nominating committee is still undecided, here are five reasons why LL Cool J should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He’s the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) in Hip-Hop
LL Cool J was hip-hop’s first major superstar. Over his 30-year career, the veteran rhymer has defined the sound and image of rap. Back in the ’80s, he had both style and swagger – the Troop outfits, Kangol hats, gold dookie rope chains, and his good looks.
In addition to his commercial success — with seven of his 13 albums going platinum — he also made it cool for rappers to show their vulnerability with his crossover hit “I Need Love,” which has become the template for future rap ballads to come. At 50 years old, LL is still a B-boy at heart and still rocking the mic at various music festivals.
He Had the Best Comeback Ever in Rap
We have seen countless rappers come and go, and some even fade into obscurity. In 1989, critics and fans panned LL’s super-lover persona on his third album, Walking With a Panther, and pretty much written him off. Unswayed by the criticisms, LL teamed up with legendary producer Marley Marl and a year later released Mama Said Knock You Out, his magnum opus. On the title track, LL delivered arguably rap’s most famous rallying cry, “Don’t call it a comeback / I been here for years.”
The landmark album rejuvenated LL and brought him back to prominence. Songs like “Around the Way Girl,” “Boomin’ Systems” and “Jingling Baby” solidified him as the rap king and quieted his critics. The album also garnered him his first Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1992.
“It’s one of the albums that helped shape the direction of where rap and everything was going at that time,” Marl told Vanity Fair in 2015. True indeed.
He Went From Hollis to Hollywood
LL Cool J was one of the first rappers to successfully transition from rapping to the screen without any formal thespian training. Since making his official acting debut in 1991’s The Hard Way, he’s appeared in over 40 movies. Although some were horribly bad (Halloween H2O, Deep Blue Sea), but he garnered a few memorable performances in such flicks like Any Given Sunday, In Too Deep and S.W.A.T. Currently, LL’ is in the hit CBS drama NCIS: Los Angeles, which is now in its ninth season.
“My music was big, but this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” LL told Parade in 2010. “Reinvention isn’t only for celebrities or actors or musicians or athletes – reinvention is for all humanity.”
“For me, having a music career for all those years kind of prepped me emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually to be able to handle something like this,” he continued. “You have to remember that success is a long, long road, but failure is only a step away.”
He Once Lived the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle…and Survived
Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll is often synonymous with the life of a rock star, and LL Cool J has had his fair share of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle himself. In his 1997 autobiography, I Make My Own Rules, Uncle L wrote in great detail about his sexual tryst with a pregnant groupie, his obsession with pornography, and his heavy drug use with angel dust and cocaine.
Now clean and sober, LL is the author of two best-selling health and fitness books, Platinum Workout and Platinum 360 Diet and Lifestyle. Judging by the cover photos on his albums Mama Said Knock You Out and Todd Smith, his healthier lifestyle is paying off and will help him continue to rock the mic for years and years to come.
He’s a Lover Not a Fighter… But Will Still Knock You Out
LL Cool J has been involved in some of hip-hop’s most legendary rap feuds. From Kool Moe Dee to MC Hammer to Ice-T, LL has successfully dismantled them lyrically. But his greatest rap battle came in 1997 when a young lion named Canibus came for LL’s mic. Granted, Canibus’ diss track “Second Round K.O.” might have dazed the rap veteran, but LL’s counterattack “The Ripper Strikes Back” destroyed Canibus’ career. Then on “Back Where I Belong,” LL threw Canibus under the bus again for good measure. It’s a testament to his rap legacy that rappers still want to (unwisely) battle him. However, no matter who wants to challenge him, LL will always come back tougher, and yes, hard as hell.