Less than a week after George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police and protests started springing up around the country, LL Cool J posted an a cappella rap in support of the Black Lives Matter movement to Instagram. “Watching that man die slow left a hole,” he said with fire in his eyes. “He cried for his mama as the murder unfold … I’m telling those with melanin, you’re not alone.” He also named several other black men and women, including Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, and Amadou Diallo, who died unjustly at the hands of the authorities as a show of support.
On August 23rd, police in Kenosha, Wisconsin fired seven bullets at another black man, Jacob Blake, and hit him four times while trying to detain him; Blake is now reportedly recovering while handcuffed to a hospital bed. LL Cool J, who plays a former Navy SEAL on NCIS: Los Angeles and is launching a new hub for online classic hip-hop called Rock the Bells, says he is horrified that stories like Blake’s continue.
“I feel as strongly as I did when I did that freestyle,” he tells Rolling Stone. “We’ve got to do something different about how we are vetting these bad cops, these cops that don’t have any spine or are easily frightened. Because the bar of ‘I fear for my life’ is too subjective. We got to get a different system in place for vetting, better education, more psychological evaluations, a deeper background check so that we really know who is doing the policing.
“People that are from the community or are closer to the community need to be in these communities,” he continues. “There has to be a different approach. Because this unjust killing of people because someone says they’re scared, when we know that it’s that bullshit, it just has to stop.”
The rapper believes positive change can start with selecting lawmakers who can pass legislation that will police the police. “Ultimately, the police got to be there to protect and serve everybody,” he says. “It’s not protect some and kill others; it’s protect and serve everybody. And this idea that every black man or woman is treated like a villain has got to go. People of color should not be treated like villains.” He adds that people “should definitely vote.”
“We need to fire the bad guys,” he says. “I understand that with defunding, you want to redirect that money to schools and different things, and I agree with the idea of funding schools and community programs, but I also think there needs to be a policy to fire the bad police. You can talk defunding and I get it, but how about we slash [the budget] by firing these bad guys. You have got some really good police and then you got some criminal police and the criminals need to be fired, period. That’s the way to defund them. Get rid of the bad ones.”
Above all, LL has hope for the way America can change for the better. “Pendulums have a tendency to swing towards extremes, but ultimately, it’ll settle in a good place,” he says. He uses a metaphor of a leaky boat to describe what he sees as an imbalance of justice in the U.S. “Anytime you have a group of people that are being treated unjustly, those are leaks in the boat of America that sink the whole thing,” he says. “If America is to survive, we are going to have to get used to the idea that we are in this boat together in order keep it from imploding, we have to shore up the leaks of injustice that exist in certain communities.”
As for the pace of change, LL remains optimistic. “Like my grandmother used to say, ‘It won’t be as long as it has been,’” he says. “Things will change. They’re changing now and it’ll change more. But I meant everything I said [in that rap] and I stand by it a thousand percent.”