LL Cool J backs Smiths Oscar boycott

Grammy-winning rapper and actor LL Cool J receives star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and says he backs Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith in their Oscar boycott.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (JANUARY 21, 2016) (REUTERS) – Rapper LL Cool J was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Thursday (January 21) for a career in music, TV and film that has spanned over three decades.

The ceremony for the New York native on Los Angeles’ fabled Hollywood Boulevard brought out the stars, including Sean “P Diddy” Combs and Queen Latifah, among others.

Speaking to Reuters after receiving his honor, LL Cool J weighed in the diversity debate in Hollywood and said he supported Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s boycott of the Oscars party next month.

“People have a right to make the decision they want to make. That’s what makes America great. You know, in some countries those feelings and those protests would be suppressed and that would be a problem. So, I mean, is there room for improvement? Yes. Would it be nice to see more diversity? Yes. Do I think that ‘Straight Outta Compton’ was Oscar-worthy material? Yes. But, you know, at the same time you’ve just got to keep pushing and keep working hard and, you know, ultimately, things happen,” he said.

“You know, all these things take time and everybody represents a stage, you know Martin Luther King was a stage, Barack Obama was a stage, you know what I’m saying? What Will Smith is doing now and what Jada is doing now is a stage and, you know, sometimes people have to be at the forefront of those types of movements in order to affect change,” he added.

A week after nominations were announced for the highest honors in show business, only four stars – Smith, Lee, director Michael Moore, and Jada Pinkett-Smith – have announced their intention to stay away from the Feb. 28 ceremony in protest over long-running lack of diversity in the movie industry.

Be it concern over causing offense, opting to lobby for change behind the scenes, or a chance to attend the world’s biggest showcase, big stars among 2016 nominees have been largely silent.

Others, like Oscar winners George Clooney and Lupita Nyong’o, have called for change but have signaled no intention to stay at home.

Addressing the ceremony on Hollywood Boulevard, actor and rapper Queen Latifah recalled the first time she saw LL Cool J while driving in New York City.

“That was one of the first times I saw L, driving through Manhattan in a Benz. I was on the corner, he didn’t know me, I wasn’t Queen Latifah, and he just kind of looked up and I was like … and he was like … I was like, ‘oh snap LL Cool J’, he was fronting real hard that day,” Queen Latifah said.

Rapper and businessman Sean “P Diddy” Combs also recalled the experience watching LL Cool J on TV before finding fame himself.

“I remember when I first saw you, it was like watching a superhero walking through Rucker Park in New York and it was like the first hip hop superstar that I ever saw. You know, this guy was just like glowing man, he just had this glow to him and this smile, this charisma,” said Combs.

LL Cool J was born James Todd Smith on Long Island, New York, and he adopted the name LL Cool J to stand for Ladies Love Cool James. The 48-year-old entertainer’s rap career dates back to his critically acclaimed 1985 album “Radio.”

In the 1990s, he won a pair of Grammy awards for best rap solo, taking one trophy for the track “Hey Lover” and the other for “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Since 2009, LL Cool J has starred in the television drama “NCIS: Los Angeles,” playing special agent Sam Hanna in the show about a criminal investigative unit of the U.S. Navy.