Two hip hop heroes were formally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Saturday (Oct. 30) inside the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. LL Cool J, the larger than life, self proclaimed G.O.A.T., was (finally) enshrined for musical excellence after being nominated six times since 2010. He mesmerized the crowd and proved why he deserved the honor as he weaved through a medley of hits — “Rock The Bells” with Eminem, “All I Have” with J. Lo, “I’m Bad,” “Go Cut Creator Go” and “Mama Said Knock You Out.”
“What does LL actually stand for? Ladies love? Living large? Licking lips?” Dr. Dre joked, while inducting LL. “I’m here because I personally think it stands for Living Legend.”
“LL’s longevity is unparalleled in hip hop,” Dre continued. “[He’s] the rare artist loved by you, your mom and all of your kids all at once.” LL, born James Todd Smith, took his previous Rock & Roll Hall of Fame snubs in stride, strutting with humility as he approached the podium for his acceptance speech.
“I’d like to thank all of the people who voted for LL to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame year after year,” he said. “A lot of people, when I told them I got inducted, they’d say to me, ‘Isn’t it is about time?’ You see, what people don’t realize is, I wasn’t thinking about the people who voted against me. I was thinking about the people who voted for me. It was love. Like what I was feeling was, wow, here’s some people over there who won’t take no for an answer. They like, ‘Yo this guy got to be in here and we’re going to keep fighting for you ‘til we get him in here.’ So I thank you.”
“Humility. I know I’m supposed to get up here and talk tough and talk shit, but nah. Humility,” he added. “I’m not talking about that false, self-deprecating, I bow to you but I think I’m better than you shit. I’m talking about real humility, where you have the confidence to collaborate, the confidence to work with other people. The confidence to celebrate others… The last thing I’ll say is, rock and roll, hip hop loves you. We borrow your beats. We sample ’em. We turn them into hits. And we know where we came from. We know where things come from. We love and appreciate you.”
JAY-Z, who was elected into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame his first time being on the ballot, was incredibly gracious during his acceptance speech. Following a star-studded video tribute that included remarks from Beyoncé, Chris Rock, Blue, John Legend, Lena Waithe, Halle Berry, Diddy, LeBron James, Samuel L. Jackson, and former President Barack Obama, Dave Chappelle did the honors of delivering HOV’s induction speech.
“I would like to apologize … I’m just fuckin’ with you,” Chappelle joked. “It is an incredible honor to induct this next man into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But I need everybody in rock and roll to know that even though you are honoring him, he is ours. He is hip hop. For ever and ever, and a day.”
“Thank you, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, for this incredible honor,” Jay said. “And you know, growing up, we didn’t think we could be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We were told that hip hop was a fad. Much like punk rock, it gave us this anti-culture, this subgenre, and there were heroes in it. When thinking about what I was going to say tonight, these heroes just kept coming to my mind, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One and Chuck D, and, of course, a fellow inductee, LL Cool J. I watch these guys, and they have big gold chains and leather and sometimes even the red, black, green medallions and whatever they wore, everybody would wear the next day. I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to be like those guys.’ And so I set out on my journey.”
JAY thanked his mom, Gloria Carter, his sister, Annie, Roc Nation co-founder Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith and DJ Clark Kent for their contributions to his career. Surprisingly, HOV also thanked his former business partner, Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Dame Dash.
“Shout out to Dame, I know we don’t see eye to eye, but I can never erase your accomplishments. And I appreciate you and I thank you for that. Shout out to Biggs. He was one of the most honorable people I’ve ever met and we’ve created something that will probably never be duplicated. I appreciate you guys. Thank you for my journey. Thank you.”
In addition to the hip hop titans who made it into this year’s class, Carole King, Tina Turner, Todd Rundgren, the Go-Go’s, and the Foo Fighters were inducted this year. Gil Scott-Heron, Kraftwerk, Charley Patton received Early Influence awards, while Billy Preston, and Randy Rhoads were honored with the Musical Excellence Award. The ceremony will air Saturday, Nov. 20 on HBO.
Check out some of the highlights from the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame below: