NEW YORK — Not that he was ever doubted, but LL Cool J continues to pledge allegiance to his hometown. He recently filmed another video in his native stomping grounds of Queens, and Thursday night at New York's plush Radio City Music Hall (with openers Twista and Ciara), all he needed was one mic, six-pack abs and a bottomless sack of hits to command the Big Apple.
"It's been a long journey," he said from offstage as the show began. "A lot of y'all been riding with me since day one. Some of y'all just got on board. It's all love." In fact, Cool J showed so much love to the crowd that one woman reached up and quickly slapped him on the butt as he bent over to shake hands, a kid jumped onstage, and a few people in the crowd went home a little richer as they collected dollars from the two wads of dinero that LL had thrown into the air.
No wonder people threw their "Ls" in the air: Cool J made a classy entrance, cruising onstage in a red Ferrari, walking out wearing a red jumpsuit and matching Chicago Bulls baseball cap.
With the crowd on its feet, LL began with an album cut from DEFinition, "Rub My Back." Apparently, the crowd wasn't too familiar with record, but the spectacle of seeing the chiseled veteran run around the stage kept hands in the air and butts out of seats.
Finally, LL hit some familiar territory with "Phenomenon," "The Boomin' System" and "I'm Bad," and got a better reaction.
All praise due to nostalgia, because when the latter record was performed, the three screens that hung behind L's longtime DJ, Cut Creator, played the original video, with Cool's live words about eating his own brand of cookies, squashing sucka MCs like jellybeans and putting a muscle-bound man's face in the sand synched up perfectly to the to clips.
After another of DEFinition's album cuts, "I'm Gonna Get Her," the performance got too hot even for the headliner, and LL poured a bottle of water over his head to cool down before firing off "Jingling Baby" and "Hush."
"Sometimes I flip," he rapped on "Hush." "Sometimes you flip/ Sometimes we wild out and act like lunatics/ We movin' too fast, the whole world's in a rush/ Everybody, just hush."
Of course, nobody obliged the song's exhortation for quiet and stillness, especially the people who Cool J made personal bonds with as he prowled the stage. One woman looked like she was going to faint when the MC/actor kissed her hand, then another had a huge smile when he walked past her onto the runway connected to the stage and playfully said, "You think you cute!"
The back-in-the-day reminiscing continued when the DJ dropped the beat to "Around the Way Girl." As double-L rapped, "Silky, milky, her smile is like sunshine/ That's why I had to dedicate at least one rhyme/ To all the cuties in the neighborhood/ 'Cause if I didn't tell you then another brother would," you realized just how much longevity LL has had (and how old you are) by looking at the date of "Oct. 7 1990" on the big screen as the video played.
"Yo, tell them who this is for," Cut Creator yelled to Cool J as he rapped.
"What?" LL yelled back.
"Tell them who this is for!" Cut yelled back, switching the record to "Lov You Better" as LL finally answered, "This is to my number one." He tore through "Hey Lover," walking over to a bench and pulling out some roses to hand out to the women in the audience, then took off his tank top for "Headsprung."
With his stash of records seemingly deep enough to last all night, Uncle L hit the crowd off with a few more records like "Rock the Bells" and "Ill Bomb," and on "Doin' It," he brought a couple dozen of women onstage to dance, hugging them and letting them take pictures of him with their camera phones.
During his finale, LL allowed just one female to join him under the spotlight. "Who wanna be my J. Lo tonight?" he asked the audience. Then he turned to Cut Creator, who missed his cue to start "All I Have."
"What you want, a sandwich? You hungry?"
Cut was on point after the closing number was done. LL asked for a little traveling music as he stepped back into the Ferrari. "I need some horns to take me out."
On cue, the beat to "Going Back to Cali" came on and Cool J said, "I'll see you when I see you" to his Big Apple faithful.
Ciara, an 18-year-old who wasn't even alive when L dropped his first album in 1985, opened up the show. The teen, who went numero uno with her "Goodies," almost looked like a female Usher with her nonstop dance moves, white jacket and matching Atlanta Braves cap pulled down over her eyes.
There was the glide-and-slide across the floor as she danced to the beat of Lil' Scrappy's "No Problems." Then, when the DJ played the instrumental track to the Terror Squad's "Lean Back," she switched up the record with her own lyrics and told everyone to do the A-Town stomp. Before she left, Ci performed "Goodies," inspiring the some of the people who were just entering the building to get down before they sat down.
Twista's set had a few hits and misses. One man in the crowd obviously had no idea who Twis was, as he whispered to his friend, "Is he supposed to be saying something?" when the Chi-Town rep started firing off his flow on "Kill Us All." Other records like "Po Pimpin' " and the remixes to "Rubber Band Man" and "Pimp On" — which the New York crowd did not seem too familiar with — didn't conjure a huge response, but the motor-lipped rhyme maven won them over with his hits "Overnight Celebrity," "Slow Jamz" and "So Sexy."
For a feature on LL Cool J, check out "LL Cool J: Keeping The Bus Pass."
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.