In 1987, when LL Cool J was merely “first album famous,” the emerging rapper spent a charming afternoon bonding with folk-rock legend/fellow Queens native Paul Simon for a New York Times profile. Reminiscing Thursday on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the Lip Sync Battle host recalled hanging out with the singer-songwriter in his grandmother’s basement.
“We were doing some kind of interview, and [Simon] just wanted to come by,” the rapper said. “I remember we went to a high school or junior high school. And I remember saying, ‘I’m not sure they’re gonna know who Paul is.'” But when LL introduced Simon to the young, all-black audience, their excitement swelled to “pandemonium.”
“These are black kids,” the rapper-actor told Kimmel. “Yo, I was blown away that all these little black kids knew Paul Simon. It was shocking. You gonna sit there and tell me you think Paul Simon is known in the hood? Would you think that?”
“No, I would not think that,” the host said, joking, “Art Garfunkel, on the other hand, huge. He’s got ‘funk’ right there in his name.”
For the New York Times piece, LL Cool J and Simon appeared at the Black Spectrum Theater Company, a 425-seat community performing arts center that hosted a weekly talent contest for merchandise prizes. The rapper introduced Simon by referencing his acclaimed 1986 LP, Graceland: ”He has a new album he put together with some brothers from South Africa who are going through some serious changes and are unable to sit down together the way we are tonight. You should check it out!”
Simon isn’t a complete stranger to old-school hip-hop. In 1988, a video for his 1972 song “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” featured an intro by Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie alongside a cameo by producer and Main Source co-founder Large Professor.