LL Cool J. Photo: Getty Images
This year marks LL Cool J’s fourth time hosting the Grammys, which means that the rapper-turned-actor is doing something really right. On Saturday evening Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège Cognac hosted a pre-Grammy dinner for the Cool J at LA’s Hinoki & the Bird. The private bash drew everyone from Michael Strahan to Salt ‘N Pepa to the cast of Entourage (minus Adrian Grenier) to toast his success four years running. And while he did not want to discuss the state of Bobbi Kristina Brown, we did get to chat with the NCIS: Los Angeles actor and two-time Grammy winner about what it’s like to run the show every year at music’s biggest night.
Yahoo Style: Do you get nervous before you host the Grammys?
LL Cool J: You know, I feel it. Anytime you have a big event you feel it. But it’s not nervousness like “Oh, I’m afraid and there’s so many people.” It’s like anxious and excited to see the performances, be part of the show and get it rolling. But the thing that helps me is that it is not really about me. It’s about me quarter-backing the night, but everybody else is running with the ball and going out for the passes. Kanye West and Rihanna and Paul McCartney have to score the touchdowns, not me.
YS: Is there anyone you get star-struck by?
LLCJ: I’m excited to see Madonna. I think star-struck is a little strong, but definitely excited. I admire her career. I admire her intelligence. The way she’s built her career and her brand, and as a woman grow old gracefully. Being in shape and taking care of herself. I think that’s very admirable.
YS: Why do you think the Grammys let you keep coming back as the host?
LLCJ: If I knew the answer to that I guarantee you I’d always be doing it! I’m just very thankful, very grateful. They embrace me so I want to keep doing the right job and having fun. I’m not delusional! I don’t think I’m Billy Crystal. I don’t pretend to be Ellen DeGeneres. I won’t be breaking any selfie records.
YS: One of your most iconic songs is “Around The Way Girl.” Which current female singers do you think embody the idea of an around the way girl?
LLCJ: That’s an interesting question! In a lot of ways, I think Sia is an around the way girl. She’s still faceless. The real around the way girls are unsung heroes in our society. She’s the girl next door. She’s the girl in your neighborhood. Sia represents them all because she’s faceless. Her Grammy performance is very innovative. It’s hot. Rihanna, Beyoncé, Katy Perry – they all around the way girls in a different way, too. Being an around the way girl doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. It doesn’t mean you can’t be a career woman. It doesn’t mean that you can’t go after your dreams and try to be the best that you can be. It just mean that you are rooted in something, in a community. It’s familiar.
YS: How did you feel about Missy Elliott performing with Katy at the Super Bowl?
LLCJ: First of all, I was blown away by Missy. And let me be selfish and honest. Missy was wearing my wife’s earrings – Simone Smith jewelry – when she performed. I was blown away by that. Unsolicited. We didn’t know. Somebody connected it and that was crazy. But I thought the performance was dope. I saw a meme out there with me from Deep Blue Sea with the shark from the Super Bowl behind me.
YS: Those sharks are taking over.
LLCJ: Yeah. We love sharks. I need a real photo with the shark.
YS: Is Missy Elliott making a comeback?
LLCJ: I don’t see why we wouldn’t see her again. I think she’s talented. She did a great job. She should come back. Great music lasts and she made great music. You got to see it again. She’s just been off the scene for a while. What a way to come back, right?
YS: Are there any musicians you’re hoping break into the music scene this year?
LLCJ: In the hip-hop culture, definitely. Guys like Loaded Lux, Fred the Godson, Murda Mook. Rap artists that are underground in the battle culture. They make some great music, it just takes time. There’s a lot of great artists out there.
YS: What are you wearing for the Grammys this year?
LLCJ: I don’t wear the same thing every year. I do have some surprises. Giorgio Armani has been personally making me stuff. That’s been really cool. Mr. Armani has been hands-on, which is amazing.
YS: What’s your favorite accessory with a tux?
LLCJ: The hat. I only go bald-headed when I’m shooting guns or catching terrorists. Other than that, I have to have the hat on.