iHeartRadio Music Awards host LL Cool is there for J.Lo

Ten years ago, LL Cool J took on the challenge of hosting the Grammys for the first time, the day after Whitney Houston passed away.

“It was just an incredible time,” the New York City hip-hop icon told the Post. “Ken [Ehrlich, longtime Grammys producer,] was like, ‘What are we doing?’ And I just said, ‘Let’s say a prayer. Let’s address the elephant in the room… and hug the crowd so they can feel the love and they can take that burden off their shoulders. And then let’s celebrate them.’ ”

A decade after this moving opening of the Grammys, LL will preside over and perform at the 2022 iHeartRadio Music Awards Tuesday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The ceremony, which will be broadcast live on Fox at 8pm, comes just five days before the grand daddy of all awards shows – the Oscars – on Sunday.

LL Cool J
LL Cool J will open the 2022 iHeartRadio Music Awards with a performance before taking over as moderator.
Getty Images for iHeartRadio

Though he’s done well in previous hosting gigs, the rapper-actor isn’t keen on rocking the Oscars. “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “No disrespect…but I just enjoy hosting music shows and just being closer to the music [world]. I guess you never say never, but that’s my preference.”

While artist-born James Todd Smith has juggled rapping and acting for years — he’s the longtime star of the CBS series NCIS: Los Angeles — music remains his first love. And he’ll be returning to it soon with his first album since 2013’s “Authentic.”

“Q-Tip executive produced it and it’s coming together; it’s almost done,” he said. “And it’s going to be a lot of fun to come back into the game at that level and give people a new job.”

LL Cool J
LL Cool J performed at the We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert last August.
Getty Images for Live Nation

LL and his “NCIS” co-star Chris O’Donnell are also executive producers of a new dance competition show, “Come Dance With Me,” which will premiere April 15 on CBS. At 54, he clearly has no plans to rest on his legendary laurels — even though he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in October.

“It was one of the most amazing nights of my life, man… Just being recognized for your work and contribution to culture,” LL said. “You are part of the pantheon of great acts and great artists who have done so much for music. To be able to hang out with Chuck Berry, James Brown and Michael Jackson is an amazing feeling.”

And LL felt the love of a certain Hall of Famer twice who was in the crowd: “Paul McCartney got up with his phone and recorded while we rocked and it was beautiful,” he said. “I was absolutely blown away by that.”

Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J
LL Cool J was joined onstage by longtime friend and collaborator Jennifer Lopez during his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in October.
Getty Images for The Rock and Ro

The star was joined onstage during his introductory appearance by fellow All I Have collaborator Jennifer Lopez, who will receive the Icon Award at the iHeartRadio ceremony.

“We met 1,000 years ago – I don’t know where,” he said of his New York compatriot. “If she needs anything, I’m there for her; If I need anything, she is there for me. We just have a good friendship, a good vibe.”

Like the timeless J.Lo, LL has somehow managed to stand the test of time and retain the youthful look that still defines Ladies Love Cool James. His secret? “A good makeup artist,” he said, laughing. He also added, “A little melanin never hurt anyone baby!”

One of hip-hop’s first sex symbols, LL famously posed shirtless on the cover of his 1990 classic Mama Said Knock You Out. These days, however, he would only take his shirt off “when I get home.”

The LL Cool J statue in Flushing Meadows Corona Park
LL Cool J has been immortalized with a new statue in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Stephen Yang

Still, the Queens’ son has already been immortalized in all his shirtless attire in a new statute by sculptor Sherwin Banfield, which resides in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

“This is the most incredible honor ever, man,” LL said. “To have a statue in your hometown, I mean, God, I felt like Rocky as he ran up the steps, turned around, jumped up and s-t… It’s an amazing feeling [to know that] In 100 years it will be on one level somewhere.”

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