LL Cool J On Juneteenth, “Policing Bad Cops On TV,” George Floyd’s Death As A Catalyst & The Power Of Old-School Hip-Hop
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The lyrics "Don't call it a comeback / I've been here for years" from the 90s album "Mama Said Knock You Out" are published almost every time LL COOL J comes into the cultural ring. A cliché maybe, but with the latest TKO of his Black Live Matter freestyle, hip-hop legend and NCIS: LA star have once again proven that there really is no school like the old one.
LL COOL J went on social media with his new song in the days after George Floyd was murdered by police officers in Minneapolis and captured the moment for many, especially as the protests on the streets of the metropolis of Minnesota and America and the world grew everywhere .
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After Chris O’Donnell interrupted his CBS process due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Kennedy Center Honors recipient was also starting to expand its Rock the Bells brand in 2017 when everything collapsed. The founder and CEO of Rock the Bells, one of hip hop's early superstars since the release of his radio album in 1985, is trying to take over the spirit of the SiriusXM station he oversees to bring a new spotlight to artists like Rakim and Eric to shine B, Big Daddy Kane and Roxanne Shante.
With that in mind, I spoke to LL COOL J about Juneteenth, the death of Floyd, Black Lives Matter on Memorial Day, and this time in America. With the desire of many not only to see serious police reforms, but also to change their representation, the man, who has played Special Agent Sam Hanna at NCIS: LA for 11 years, also discussed what he believes should happen to the Police repair and from the small screen.
DEADLINE: At a time when the country is hopefully facing serious problems of systemic racism and rampant violence against black men and women and other black people in our society, many Americans today are looking for inspiration and celebration on June 19. Many states have a public holiday today, but there is a growing step in making Juneteenth a national holiday. How do you see that?
LL COOL J: I absolutely think it should be a national day. I think it is a date that came two and a half years after the "emancipation" quote, and it is a very important day for Black America. It is a day that we want to celebrate and worship. I think the whole country should appreciate him. Juneteenth and what it represents is part of America's national history and definitely needs to be respected and celebrated.
A-List Black Artists For Freedom Coalition launched a call for action for cultural institutions on June 19
Deadline: Well, you dropped this burning BLM a cappella on Instagram on May 31, just a few days after George Floyd was killed and when the streets of America were full of people demanding justice and an end to racism and police brutality . It's clear what inspired you, but how did it come together?
LL COOL J: I just woke up and got out of bed at 7 a.m. after lying in bed all night and basically staring at the ceiling and just writing it. I wrote it in 30 or 40 minutes. It just came to me and I just wrote it from the heart, and then I just said it to the camera because I wanted to express what I was feeling, not a filter.
Deadline: It was so penetrating from the jump with "400 years you had your knees on your neck / A garden of evil without seeds of respect" and old school dullness, especially for those who know you mainly from the ex-game - Navy SEAL Sam Hanna on NCIS: LA…
LL COOL J: This is a time when you have to choose to be on the right side of the story and there is no neutral.
Hollywood is known for having people who try to cross the line and avoid things, and I felt like I had to stand on my truth. I had to stand and tell the truth and really portray people correctly and let people know what I felt. Because basically I felt what so many of us feel. It was a true and truthful statement from the heart, without governors, without censorship. Do you know what i mean?
DEADLINE: In this context, a lot has been said in recent weeks about how the police are represented on television and how this needs to be reconsidered.
LL COOL J: Yes
DEADLINE:… Stephen Colbert also joked last week that if the reality of this came true, CBS would have to “change their entire primetime lineup through the Defund the Police movement”. As someone who plays a law enforcement officer on television at CBS, what do you have to do on the small screen to change the dynamics and representation of the police?
LL COOL J: On the small screen side, I would say we need good cops to monitor these bad cops. You know, when people see that, I think it can also reflect what should happen in society.
Deadline: What do you mean?
LL COOL J: That we need to take a closer look at implicit bias and how it affects people, because implicit bias can make you anxious even if you don't think you're a racist all the time. Implicit bias can make you afraid of a situation where you don't have to be afraid and you could take someone's life.
DEADLINE: You have been dealing with brutality and harassment by the police for a long time, as in your song "Illegal Search" from 1990. What do you think of the defeat of the police or of others who seek reform?
LL COOL J: First, I think we need to raise law enforcement training standards in general.
This simply cannot be a job where you graduate from high school, go to academy for a month or six weeks or whatever, you have a gun and life and death are in your hands. These officers must be better trained and the training must be more extensive. We also have to look at it in a different way, as I think the background checks need to go a little deeper.
Look, everyone is not racist, and I'm not trying to say that everyone is racist, but there is a segment of racists who have infiltrated law enforcement. That is a fact. They are in positions that have a lot of influence, and they affect the general way that policing takes place in this country, and that needs to be changed.
DEADLINE: You have seen far too many cases of police brutality and police killings of black men and women. We have seen riots like LA 1992 or Ferguson in 2015. Do you think this time after George Floyd's death that it is different and deeper? This change will really come?
LL COOL J: Yes, I think it's real. I think this is a catalyst and I think we have come a step closer to change.
LL COOL J: It's not a cure, but I think we've come a step closer to solving the problem, and that's the right thing to do. We are making progress, we have to.
There are many people around the world looking at this moment, and they are rooted for us and with us, and they are on the right side of the story, you know what I mean? There are times when things are more effective or less effective. I think this is a question of politics, it is about getting out and voting, it is a question of acting and it is only a question of your voice being heard and I think we are doing it
LL COOL J: Well, I think the majority of people in the world are good and they don't want people to be treated unfairly, they just don't.
I think you will see some significant changes, I mean, these different laws, the Breonna Taylor law, different things that happen to make it better. It can be incremental. It may not be a big leap at a time, but we're one step closer than before. The truth is, we cannot allow George Floyd's murder to be free, we cannot allow that.
DEADLINE: As America looks at itself more closely or harder and perhaps more clearly, you have just launched the latest version of your brand extension Rock the Bells, celebrating the pioneers of hip-hop. How did the events change your view of it?
LL COOL J: It is interesting that more than ever it is about celebrating the culture and putting ownership back into the hands of the culture through the platform. I really connected with the everyday people out there and didn't forget where I came from. I have not allowed my business relationships or the place to go in my career to separate myself from the man on the street.
Hip-hop is a culture, an art form. I think the artists who have paved the way for this art form and culture should be celebrated. Because to connect with today, hip-hop has always been about letting your voice be heard, in a situation where you may be disadvantaged and underprivileged but excel. That is the spirit, and for me Rock the Bells embodies this spirit.
You know, even the freestyle that I wrote. They know that I worked partially with a designer, Alexander-John, and part of the proceeds went to Black Lives Matter and another part to my Jump & Ball Foundation. I mean, for me this is the moment of hip hop.
Deadline: how so?
LL COOL J: Because Rock the Bells is a black-owned company that puts ownership in the hands of the black community. This does not mean that we do not exclude anyone. It just means that the majority is owned by the black.
We want people to really know these artists. Everyone didn't have to sell 50 million albums, and not everyone is LL Cool J or Ice Cube or Latifah. There are artists who have one or two singles but who mean the world to our culture, like the Roxanne Shantes of the world. You have to be celebrated as a great artist and that is my goal.
It's also curated so that we can refer to it and understand it, and I think that's something special. I want people to know that some of these dollars will remain in the black community when they go through the Rock the Bells platform. These are nice things. It is the first time that we are doing this on a national level. It remains to be seen what will happen to it. All I can do is do my best, but the goal is to really get people to rally around this thing and accept something that belongs to them today.
Deadline: Speaking of today, what is the status of NCIS: LA now? Do you know when you come back to start production in season 12?
LL COOL J: I haven't heard anything yet. It remains to be seen what will happen.
I know that no shows in LA have gone back into production. I think there are some other shows in other places that have gone back if I'm not wrong, but I could be wrong. But not us. So, yes, I'm just waiting. I talked to one of the producers the other day and he told me to just stay tuned. We'll see what happens.
DEADLINE: I have to ask, the BLM tune that you published on Instagram last month was very popular with people, but otherwise you haven't released any new music since Authentic 2013. Are new songs brewing together?
LL COOL J: (laughs) Yes, I'm definitely in this room now. I did a deal with Def Jam, just an album deal to see what I could come up with because I'm definitely inspired.
Deadline: is this new?
LL COOL J: No, I did it some time ago. It was not the result of what's going on, but also the timing, the divine timing. So, yes, I definitely think about more music. Whatever I do, it will not be based on commercial sensitivities. It will be the truth and I will get it out of my soul. Not like a businessman, but from a place of truth and honor as an artist.
So, you know to continue, right?
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