NEW YORK — If LL Cool J had given any more of himself, he would have been totally naked.
A sleeveless jacket, a red Kangol and glove, a wad of cash, a gold chain with a diamond cross attached, a ripped white tank top and, most importantly, LL’s love all went out to the crowd Wednesday night during his first local concert in years. (Click for photos from the show .)
It didn’t matter how old you were when you entered the Hammerstein Ballroom for the show — while the stage and screen star was performing, you had no choice to relive your teenage years as he ran through the gamut of his catalog.
Before he came out, a video montage of LL’s greatest hits played on two screens that hung on each side of the stage while the words “Fighter,” Innovator,” “Entertainer,” Lover,” “Pioneer” and “Legend” all flashed before the clips.
“It’s been a long time,” LL said from behind the stage, where he was hidden from an audience that included Busta Rhymes, Dru Hill, N.O.R.E., M.O.P., New Edition’s Michael Bivins, Timbaland, Petey Pablo, Erick Sermon and Jay-Z. “I wanna thank God for this blessing. … Every single person in the house is my friend and family. … LL Cool J is still LL Cool J.”
In a red Kangol, a red sleeveless jacket with a “10” on it, matching shorts and one red glove, the man ladies love finally appeared to the sounds of “Phenomenon.”
“Baby girl was draped in Chanel/ She said she love Tupac but hates some LL,” he said, barely able to contain himself, running around the stage and prowling like the panther he once rapped about. Equally invigorating performances of “Radio” and “The Boomin’ System” followed, and then it was time for the real theatrics.
Standing in front of the walkway onstage and holding his hands high in the air, he left off a thunderous, He-Man-like yell to set off “I’m Bad.” He extended his roar while running in place, knees almost going to chin level. “No rapper can rap quite like I can/ I’ll take a musclebound man and put his face in the sand/ Not the last Mafioso, I’m a MC cop/ Make you say, ’Go LL,’ and do the wop.”
The non-stop benefaction of jams continued with LL wasting little time talking; instead he mostly communicated through songs, gyrations and lip-licking as he ran through posse cuts like “4, 3, 2, 1,” “I Shot Ya,” “Flava in Ya Ear,” “Fatty Girl” (where he went topless), and “Rampage.”
It didn’t matter if their names weren’t Lisa, Angela, Pamela or Renée, the ladies’ hearts definitely were fluttering and they were “shook up” on LL’s lovin’ during “Around the Way Girl.” The second in a trifecta of whammy was next with “I Need Love.”
“Ladies, put your L’s in the air,” he said, making the letter shape with his thumb and pointer finger. “Who wants a rose?” he asked, going on to rap with the mic in one hand while he threw roses out with the other.
“Yo, I missed y’all,” he said in between verses of “Hey Lover.” “When I was makin’ those movies, I was thinkin’ about y’all.” After he simulated grinding on a stool and garnered cheers from the ladies, he flung a fistful of cash out to the crowd while he rhymed “What your man get his hustle on/ Gotcha type scared/ Break ya off a little chump change to do your hair.”
“We gonna take it to the Roxy, Roseland, the Rooftop, Union Square,” LL continued, shouting out the New York hotspots of yesteryear, before going into his back-in-the-day hardcore anthem “Rock the Bells.” The feeling got so good to him, he drop kicked the mic stand with the precision of WWE superstar Rob Van Dam.
The night’s highlights would belong to the ladies’ anthems.
For “Doin It,” he brought a squad of women from the audience onto the stage to dance-hug. “Don’t be scared, come up,” he urged, and they started climbing up to him. One was so naturally intoxicated by the rapper, she wrapped her arms around his neck and clung to him so tight, her feet didn’t touch the ground. LL carried her and danced at the same time.
“Mama Said Knock You Out” had all the grandiose spectacle of a finale. Pyro went off, confetti and balloons dropped and the Queens MC rhymed with vigor, showing his stamina and athletic prowess.
“Gimme my robe,” L summoned.
Trying to fight back a smile, Cool J then took time to thank everyone and asked the audience if they knew who he was doing this for. Quite naturally, the dreamers in the audience were shouting out, “Me.” But LL answered his own question when his longtime DJ, Cut Creator, played the intro to “Luv U Better,” the first single off his October 15 release, 10.
The recorded voice of the Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams blared from the speakers: “This is for my nummm-ber one.” “This is for my nummm-ber one,” LL continued to mouth, holding up one finger.
Just when you thought the pageantry was over, who should jump on the stage but Ludacris? He and Keith Murray joined the G.O.A.T. to start off another performance of “Fatty Girl.”
When the music stopped, Def Jam presented LL with a six-foot plaque commemorating sales of over 10 million records. “I’m gonna make 10 more albums,” he promised before making his final exit.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.