A week after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police, LL COOL J vented about the loss of another Black life in a heartfelt verse posted on his Instagram account. HipHopDX recently caught up with the legendary MC to discuss his Black Lives Matter bars, which were inspired by LL’s grief over Floyd’s death and his desire to make his BLM stance evident to the public at large.
“The tipping point that made me want to make a public statement, as opposed to just privately grieve, was when I started seeing people wondering where certain people stood,” he told DX. “Where does LL stand? You see people wondering and curious and maybe cynical about [a] celebrity and how do you feel about it and all of that. And I just want it to be clear. I just wanted to be very, very clear about where I was at. I felt like this was one of those moments when you can’t sit it out. You can’t just sit idly by and let it go. And even sometimes behind-the-scenes stuff isn’t enough.”
He added, “You gotta step up, put it on the line and let people know what side of history you’re on. And that’s how I felt. So I just, I stepped up. I was up all night, jumped out of the bed at seven in the morning after being up all night tossing and turning, watching the sun come up, and I said you know what, I’m gonna do it. So, I just wrote something. And then the rest is history. Said it into the phone and here we are.”
While some artists have crafted studio recordings to tackle the police killings of Black citizens, LL wanted his raps to be raw and unfiltered. It’s why he opted to spit his verse acapella and simply upload it to social media.
“It was about the inner rhythms,” he explained. “It wasn’t about beats. It was just truth. It was just me using rap and MCing as an art form to speak to the world and to do it with inner rhythms. That’s why it’s even hard to put a beat under it because I was rhyming to my own spirit. What’s going on in inner rhythms inside of me. It wasn’t about being polished or none of that. It was just about the truth.”
He continued, “Just tell the truth, man. How do you feel about it? This is how I feel about it. And speak to the world. And just be honest. And that’s what I did. So, I didn’t think about beats. I wasn’t considering production. I wasn’t considering … that wasn’t even a question to me. It was a matter of just words, these words are what I want you to listen to. These words. Nothing else. The words.”
The verse largely received a warm reception but faced some criticism too — including a barrage of insults from Freddie Gibbs. LL was unfazed by the negativity, dismissing any cynicism as besides the point.
“I didn’t even consider anything,” he said. “Like the only thing I’m thinking about is speaking truth to the world. That was what was important to me. If anybody had anything negative to say, I don’t even know what to even think about that. I don’t even know if it’s relevant. The only thing that’s relevant to me is speaking truth about this system that allows this eight minutes and 46 seconds that this Black man was on his stomach being suffocated by these police officers. And this guy [Derek] Chauvin putting his knee on this guy’s neck. That was the focus.”
LL concluded, “When you’re in the spirit of truth, you can’t allow yourself to be distracted by anything. It’s about the spirit of truth. And that’s what’s important to me. And that’s the same way I feel about RockTheBells.com. It’s in the spirit of truth. This isn’t about LL in ego mode. This is about a world that we’re living in now where we have to step up as human beings and as individuals and make an impact. And make it better. And that’s what I care about.”
Check out more from DX’s interview with LL here and in the video below.