What Hip-Hop Taught LL Cool J [WAAMN Chapter 2.5]

Hip-hop changed the Queens-raised emcee’s life—and opened doors to an unlikely livelihood.

This is the weekly installment of my new book, We Are All Musicians Now. To make sure you don’t miss future serializations, click here. Below you’ll find Chapter 2: The Genius of Ownership (Part 5). Enjoy!


“LL, I’m sure you didn’t know how it was going to turn out when I first met you years ago,” continues Rocky Bucano, executive director of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, as he winds down his speech at its groundbreaking ceremony. “We’re putting our heart and soul into this museum. So without further ado, let me bring up the new Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee: LL Cool J!”

The Queens-raised emcee saunters to the stage, clad in a Rock the Bells varsity lettermen jacket, his all-black Yankee hat serving as a requisite nod to the borough of hip-hop’s birth. And though he hasn’t prepared any remarks, he dives right into a potent description of his early experiences with hip-hop that leaves the crowd murmuring in agreement.

“It was the first time that I heard young Black men sound empowered,” he says. “I am truly grateful to be a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee … but I must say, it’s hip-hop first.”

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