Tag: Simone Eccleston

LL Cool J to Become Kennedy Center’s First Hip-Hop Honoree

LLCoolJ (photo via npr.org)

by Rodney Carmichael via npr.org

Thirty years after becoming rap’s first sex symbol, LL Cool J will be the first hip-hop artist to receive Kennedy Center Honors in its 40-year history.

The rapper-turned-actor born James Todd Smith will be inducted with a prestigious 2017 class — including pop stars Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, television icon Norman Lear and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade – on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C.

The honorees will be saluted by performers while seated alongside President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. While Kennedy Center Honors acknowledge the lifetime achievements of contributors to American culture, the list has traditionally been limited in scope. But the inclusion of LL, born James Todd Smith, in this year’s honoree list further expands the center’s growing embrace of hip-hop culture.

Earlier this year the center appointed Simone Eccleston as its first director of Hip-Hop Culture after naming A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip as artistic director of Hip-Hop Culture in 2016. Historic performances by Kendrick Lamar and Common have also underlined the center’s investment, and more programming for the 2017-18 season is expected to be announced in the coming months.

At 49, LL will be the Kennedy Center’s youngest honoree since Stevie Wonder. It’s a long way from home for the St. Albans, Queens native who made his first record, “I Need A Beat,” at 16, after his demo tape made it to the ears of producer and Def Jam founder Rick Rubin. As rap’s first bona fide solo star, LL was larger than life in the 1980s, the first to embody the street-corner swagger and sex appeal that would become a blueprint for future hip-hop icons ranging from Big Daddy Kane to Biggie.

Before an artist like Drake could legitimately mix hip-hop lyricism with R&B vulnerability, LL turned out the first hit rap ballad with 1987’s “I Need Love.” And the ladies loved him for it. Best known today for his starring roles in TV and film, he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year. But after a career spanning 30-plus years and 13 albums, he’s yet to leave rap alone — he’s rumored to be in the studio recording with Dr. Dre.

To read full article, go to: LL Cool J To Become Kennedy Center’s First Hip-Hop Honoree : The Record : NPR

Harlem Stage in New York Director Simone Eccleston Named Kennedy Center’s 1st Director of Hip-Hop Culture 

Simone Eccleston (photo via nbcwashington.com)

article by Jordan Murray via nbcwashington.com

The Kennedy Center announced their first director of hip-hop culture and contemporary music Wednesday. Simone Eccleston, currently the director of programming at Harlem Stage in New York, will assume the role March 13. Eccleston’s new role will include leading a center-wide commitment to hip-hop culture and contemporary music, which includes R&B, soul, folk and roots, indie, world music and Latin music, according to a release.

Eccleston will also work as a partner with other areas of the Kennedy Center to highlight the collaborative nature of hip-hop music. The program will also aim to increase opportunities for community involvement and participation. Hip-hop is based on five core elements — deejaying, emceeing, break-dancing, graffiti writing and knowledge of self — the Kennedy Center said, all of which build and transform communities through art and action.

“With the Kennedy Center serving as the preeminent home for our nation’s arts and culture, the creation of a programmatic platform for hip-hop culture is deeply significant,” Eccleston said in a statement. She also said hip-hop culture has influenced and contributed to every aspect of American society and helps drive innovation and creative expressions across many different disciplines. “It is also an important catalyst for community building, activism and empowerment.”

Kennedy Center Senior Vice President Robert van Leer said the nature of hip-hop culture can create collaborations with the dance, theater, music and education programs. “We are thrilled to have an arts administrator of Simone’s caliber join us — someone who can lead that exploration of what hip-hop at the Kennedy Center can become in the coming years,” van Leer said in a statement. “And we believe it is the Center’s responsibility to develop and elevate thought-leaders like Simone to champion the bright future of our nation’s cultural institutions.”

Last March, the center appointed MC, rapper and record producer Q-Tip as its first artistic director for hip-hop culture.

To read full article, go to: Kennedy Center Names First Director of Hip-Hop Culture | NBC4 Washington