'It would’ve been more about who’s standing next to who and less about the actual art form,' he said
While it’s standard for the sitting president to attend the Kennedy Center Honors each December, President Donald Trump has already decided he won’t be present for when LL Cool J becomes the first hip-hop artist honoree at the ceremony. The rapper, however, says he’s pleased with Trump’s decision to refrain, as his attendance would likely be more of a distraction.
“I’m glad he decided not to attend because it would’ve been a distraction and it would’ve been more about who’s standing next to who and less about the actual art form and the hip-hop that I worked my heart out over these years to do what I’m doing. So, I’m glad about that,” he told Ellen DeGeneres on Ellen. “I’m glad I can just go out there and it’s about the music and the culture and not about a bunch of politics and, you know, stuff.”
If Trump were to attend, Cool J, whose given name is James Todd Smith, doesn’t know if he’d want to be part of that. “It would’ve been tough for me,” he said. “No one asked me to be their political activist, savior,” the rapper added. “I’m just gonna focus on the music, focus on hip-hop, and that’s what I’m there for. So I’m not feeding into that, I’m not feeding into the machine.”
But Cool J did want to discuss “the atmosphere in America.”
“I think it’s very important that we be able to trust our leaders and I think it’s important that we see love in one another and that we get unified, and I think that the only place where we can really connect is spiritually,” he said. He recalled how, in the aftermath of 9/11, “you looked in my eyes and I looked in your eyes [and] we knew that we were part of the same country.”
“Somewhere along the line we kind of forgot about that and got into this kind of guerrilla approach to politics,” he continued, “and this divide that’s been created is actually absurd because we’re one country, and you know what? If some foreign boots hit the ground, you’d be surprised how quickly we’d all be friends again.”
Cool J emphasized that he doesn’t want to bash or blame anybody. “People have the right to feel what they want to feel,” he said. “You know, you want to be a Republican, you want to be a Democrat, you want to be an Independent, you want to be Christian, you want to be Muslim, whether you’re trans, you’re bi, you’re gay — whatever your life is — that’s your life. Those are your choices. You have the right to make those choices. But we just have to remember that this is one country.”
DeGeneres added that “we’re one planet,” and Cool J agreed. “We need to understand that we cannot mess around with this world. This is the only place that we all have to live,” he said.
Carmen de Lavallade, Gloria Estefan, Norman Lear, and Lionel Richie will also be honored at the 40th annual Honors ceremony at the Kennedy Center on Dec. 26. The event will be broadcast on CBS beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
Watch LL Cool J on Ellen above.