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LL Cool J Encourages Us to Not Worship Lyrical Complexity: "That's a Rule I've Always Bucked"

“I don’t know if people understand how much intellectual prowess it takes to write something that’s simple.”

LL Cool J was one of hip-hop’s first solo superstars, so it is no surprise that he was the first rap artist to receive Kennedy Center Honors this month for his lifetime contributions to American arts and culture. On the heels of this lifetime achievement, he spoke withIndependent’s Chris Richards about his long-standing career and understanding of the craft.

“I don’t know if people understand how much intellectual prowess it takes to write something that’s simple,” he explains to Richards. “Let me give you an example. . . . Tolstoy is far more complex than the Lord’s Prayer. But which one was harder to write? In rap, there’s this tendency to worship complexity, and that’s a rule I’ve always bucked.” He later adds, “I don’t worship complexity, man.”

For several years now, the debate over lyrical rap versus mumble rap has been a hot-button topic, with fans and artists arguing over the merits of each approach, and if “mumble rap” can even live under the hip-hop umbrella. Here, LL's comments on complexity bring some nuance to the conversation as he insists that artists don’t need to spit double-time lyrical miracles in order to have substance in their music.

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