Just so you know: I chose this freestyle and joined the design team of Alexander John and Rock the Bells to create a commemorative t-shirt and hoodie based on the red, black and green Liberty rock I grew up on, and we will donate a portion of the proceeds to Black Lives Matter and Jump & Ball, a charity I created in Northeast Queens that allows kids to play basketball at summer camp instead of standing on a street corner. This inspired the 52-year-old Rock the Bells boss to do a fierce Black Lives Matter freestyle earlier this month, in which he beat a cop for putting his knee in George Floyd’s neck, put a knot in his head during the demonstrations and riots that followed, and explained in no uncertain terms why he is tired of facing the same nonsense “all his” life. From Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions, which fight racism and systemic oppression, to Lil Baby and YG, which campaign for Black Lives Matter and more recently expose police brutality, Uncle L knows how important it is for MCs to use their microphones to advance culture–and society. They come from a generation of artists who used hip-hop to spread a wider cultural message about what they saw around them – I think of bands like Public Enemy, N.W.A, Boogie Down Productions, A Tribe Called Quest. People from all over the world, people who were on the edge, people who couldn’t understand what we were talking about in the black community, finally saw it, really. This change will be brought about by people running for office, by people starting businesses and working hard. Lil Baby just released this thing (“The Bigger Picture”), other artists are going to come into this room to tell their truth. In general, people are good and kind-hearted, but there is just some loud, racist garbage that makes a lot of noise and makes the world worse than it should be. Billboard talked to LL about his freestyle, the new generation of MCs who are in law enforcement, and how he hopes to make a difference with his newly released Rock the Bells page. I am saying that we have to keep demonstrating, that we have to empower people at the top, and that we have to make this change – we have to. And I have to choose to be on the right side of history and support my people and support this moment and all the people who support this moment. People understand the seriousness of this moment, and I think the music will reflect that. But now I think that with everything that’s going on, you find more and more artists who are aware of things and talk about them. For those who really know LL Cool J, this rock has been part of my career, all my life this rock represents pan-Africanism. But people in general are good, and we can see that. I think we’re about to find out a lot more about how people feel and we’re going to see some of the incredible talent out there.
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