LL Cool J, who was recently named the first hip-hop honoree at the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors, told Ellen DeGeneres that he's pleased President Trump is skipping the 2017 ceremony.
"It would have been a distraction and more about who's standing next to whom and less about the actual art form and the hip-hop that I worked my heart out [for] all these years to do what I'm doing," the rapper said. "I'm glad ... it's about the culture and the music and not about a bunch of politics."
The Lip Sync Battle host added that although he looks forward to the event, it "would have been tough for [him]" were Trump in attendance. "I don't know if I would have been able to be a part of that whole situation – look, everybody feels the way they feel about it, but at the end of the day, for me it's going to be about the art. Nobody hired me to be their political activist savior. I'm just going to focus on the music, focus on hip-hop. That's what I'm there for. I'm not feeding into that. I'm not feeding the machine."
The 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors will take place December 3rd at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. Gloria Estefan, Lionel Richie, Norman Lear and dancer-choreographer Carmen de Lavallade will also be recognized at the event.
LL Cool J told DeGeneres he's "very grateful" for the honor – and to "represent hip-hop culture and continue to carry the torch for hip-hop culture." "This is a beautiful thing," he added. "I'm glad I could kick down the door for the rest of the guys and girls, and we're gonna have some fun."
In a statement following the Kennedy Center Honors announcement, LL Cool J said he was proud to help "knock down the door for a new genre." He also emphasized the importance of separating politics and art. "I'm not saying I need to be there backslapping and all of that, but this time, this one ain't about him," he said, referencing President Trump. "I'm not going to block my blessings or let the political divide stop me from embracing my art. I'm banking on the goodness and the optimism of people to say: 'You know what? I get it. Let this guy have this honor.'"
Over two weeks later, the White House announced that President Trump and Melania Trump wouldn't attend the event, with the aim of "[allowing] the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction."