Ten years ago, LL Cool J stepped up to the challenge of hosting the Grammys for the first time the day after Whitney Houston died.
“It was just an unbelievable time,” the New York hip-hop icon told The Post. “Ken [Ehrlich, longtime Grammys producer,] was like, ‘What do we do?’ And I just said, ‘Let’s say a prayer. Let’s address the elephant in the room … and embrace the crowd so that they feel the love and they can kind of take that weight off their shoulders. And then after that, let’s celebrate them.’ ”
A decade after that moving opening of the Grammys, LL will be presiding over — and performing at — the iHeartRadio Music Awards 2022 on Tuesday at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The ceremony, which will be broadcast live on Fox at 8 p.m., takes place just five days before the big daddy of all awards shows — the Oscars — on Sunday.
LL Cool J will open the 2022 iHeartRadio Music Awards with a performance before taking over hosting duties.Getty Images for iHeartRadio
Despite doin’ it and doin’ it well in previous hosting gigs, the rapper-actor isn’t interested in rocking the Academy Awards. “Nah, I don’t think so,” he said. “No disrespect … but I just really enjoy hosting music shows and just being closer to the music [world]. I guess you can never say never, but that’s my preference.”
While the artist born James Todd Smith has been juggling 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 soon be returning to it 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 gonna be a lot of fun to get back in the game on that level and give the people a new body of work.”
LL Cool J performed at 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-producing a new dance competition show, “Come Dance With Me,” which will premiere on CBS on April 15. Clearly, at 54, he 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 body of work and your contribution to the culture,” said LL. “You’re included in the pantheon of great acts and great artists that have done so much for music. To be able to hang out with Chuck Berry and James Brown and Michael Jackson, I mean, that’s an amazing feeling.”
And LL felt the love from a certain two-time Hall of Famer who was in the crowd: “Paul McCartney was standing up with his phone, taping while we was rocking, and that was beautiful,” he said. “I was, like, absolutely blown away by that.”
LL Cool J was joined onstage by longtime friend and collaborator Jennifer Lopez during his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction performance in October.Getty Images for The Rock and Ro
The star was joined onstage during his induction performance by his “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 fellow New York native. “When she needs something, I’m there for her; when I need something, she’s there for me. We just got a good friendship, a good vibe.”
Like the ageless J.Lo, LL has somehow managed to defy time, maintaining the youthful look that still makes Ladies Love Cool James. His secret? “A good makeup artist,” he said with a laugh. Plus, he added, “a little melanin never hurt nobody, baby!”
One of hip-hop’s first sex symbols, LL famously posed bare-chested on the cover of his 1990 classic “Mama Said Knock You Out.” These days, though, he would only take his shirt off “when I get home.”
LL Cool J has been immortalized with a new statue that resides in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.Stephen Yang
Still, the son of Queens has already been immortalized in all his shirtless studliness in a new statute by sculptor Sherwin Banfield that resides in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
“It’s the most unbelievable honor ever, man,” said LL. “To have a statue in your hometown, I mean, God, I felt like Rocky running up the steps, turning around, jumping up and down and s–t … It’s an amazing feeling [to know that] 100 years from now, it’ll be sitting somewhere on some level.”