LL Cool J Instagram

LL Cool J became the first hip-hop artist ever to receive the Kennedy Center Honors, the nation’s highest distinction for performers, on Sunday night, Dec. 3.

“LL was iconic from the start,” The Roots’ Questlove said in his tribute to LL Cool J. “He pioneered the whole aesthetic of being an MC. He invented the three-minute rap song. He was a superstar who got to the top and then had to defend his honor like a championship boxer.”

The 49-year-old, born James Todd Smith, was honored along with singer/songwriters Gloria Estefan and Lionel Richie, TV creator Norman Lear and dancer/actress Carmen de Lavallade for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ 40th annual event.

LL Cool J Instagram

LL Cool J spoke on the occasion in an Instagram post.

“I believe that we are built to do anything we put our minds and proper actions to,” he wrote in the caption of a picture of himself at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. “You have all the tools inside you that are required for you to fulfill your GOD given purpose. This one is for those who came before me and those who followed me. We were sent to this planet to love and inspire one another. Manifest our dreams and make them a reality. I hope you’re inspired by me because I’m absolutely Inspired by you. Mic check 1212 Let’s ride!! ???? #KCHonors #StateDepartmentDinner #hiphop.”