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CBS’ resident rapper-actor, LL Cool J, returned to the Grammys stage Sunday night for his third time as host of the annual music kudos — sporting one of his beloved Kangol hats.
But the performance-heavy Grammys don’t exactly lend themselves to monologues, so after Beyonce and Jay Z kicked off the show with a live rendition of “Drunk in Love,” LL offered a spirited ode to the recording industry and a gentle reminder to some of the more senior CBS viewers that he isn’t just that dude on NCIS: Los Angeles.
“There are millions of people who probably don’t realize I make music, too,” he said, before offering quick snippets of “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “I Need Love.”
Of course, there also were the requisite dad jokes from the 46-year-old. Beyonce and Jay Z’s intimate moment onstage during the opening, Taylor Swift‘s penchant for singing about exes, and even the polar vortex came into his sights.
“Music warms us,” he said, “which is a good thing for our friends back East. Thinking about ya.” (It’s a balmy 62 degrees outside the Grammys’ Los Angeles venue. Har Har.)
In 2012, LL famously opened his first Grammys with a prayer for Whitney Houston, who had died the previous evening. Recording Academy president Neil Portnow told The Hollywood Reporter at the time that LL Cool J was given his choice of how to address the singer’s death.
LL released his first album in four years in 2013 — though it was a collaboration with country artist Brad Paisley that brought him the most attention, music-wise, in recent years. “Accidental Racist,” which drew the ire of critics for use of Confederate flag imagery and lyrics, did not prove to be a discography highlight.
“The song wasn’t perfect, and you can’t fit 300 or 400 years of history in a three- or four-minute song,” LL told Tonight Show host Jay Leno. “A lot of people took offense to some of the lyrics, and, ultimately, I can’t defend the song, but I can clarify my intentions.”
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