LL Cool J became the first rapper to be recognised at the Kennedy Center Honors on Sunday night (03Dec17).

The 49-year-old also holds the title of the youngest-ever recipient of the honour, which is America's highest achievement in the field of performing. He was presented with his award at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. alongside Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, dancer and actress Carmen de Lavallade and TV creator Norman Lear.

Calling the evening "an amazing, amazing moment", LL Cool J added: "I'm humble, but I'm not going to play pseudo-humble. I'm the one!"

He later took to Instagram to reflect on the night and his new accolade, writing: "I believe that we are built to do anything we put our minds and proper actions to. You have all the tools inside you that are required for you to fulfill your GOD given purpose. This one is for those who came before me and those who followed me.

"We were sent to this planet to love and inspire one another. Manifest our dreams and make them a reality. I hope you're inspired by me because I'm absolutely Inspired by you. Mic check 1212 Let's ride!!"

Ahead of the awards ceremony, which will be televised in America on 26 December, this year's honorees attended a gala State Department dinner on Saturday night.

While the U.S. President usually attends the ceremony, President Donald Trump announced in August that he and wife Melania would not be making an appearance at the event. Following his announcement, Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter and Chairman David M. Rubenstein stated that they were "grateful" to the president and his first lady for avoiding a conflict and potentially overshadowing the ceremony.

Trump's presence was still somewhat felt at the event, however, with All in the Family creator Lear commenting on his absence.

Reacting with feigned surprise when he learned Trump wasn't there, Lear smiled: "Really? Wow! I'm expecting a warm, funny, wonderful evening. My guess is that the focus tonight will be on the arts."

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