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5 things we learned from Queen Latifah and LL Cool J at SXSW

Queen Latifah in a scene from the series "The Equalizer."

On Wednesday, South by Southwest hosted a virtual conversation with rap legends Queen Latifah and LL Cool J, who now star in back-to-back television shows, “The Equalizer” and “NCIS: Los Angeles” on CBS on Sunday night. Here are five things we learned from the conversation. 

1. Queen Latifah wrote her first rap verse to LL Cool J’s “I Need a Beat.” Most of the time she beat-boxed for her first rap group, but the first time she needed to flex her wordplay, she put on an LL Cool J  instrumental because “he was the bar,” the standard-bearer for her generation. 

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2. LL Cool J’s “I Need Love” was a game changer. Queen Latifah said the song broke the model of how people were doing hip-hop in a way that opened doors. “That wasn’t just a ballad. That was like, 'girls kissing the poster on the wall'-type stuff. No one in hip-hop had ever done anything like that,” she said. 

3. With his company “Rock the Bells,” LL Cool J wants to protect hip-hop’s legacy. “We created this company to make sure ... that this genre is treated right,” he said. With his Sirius FM show and concert series, he wants to make sure that it’s not just the chart toppers from the early days of hip-hop that are remembered. Part of his mission is “celebrating people who should be celebrated but were marginalized,” he said.  

LL Cool J, seen here at Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2016, appeared in conversation with Queen Latifah during SXSW Online on Wednesday.

4. Queen Latifah considers “The Equalizer” the “role of a lifetime.” “It allows me to bring together under one roof so many skills that I’ve acquired,” she said. Like her character, she’s an avid motorcyclist. She also likes the way family is centered in the newest incarnation of the show. Her character’s relationship with her 15-year-old daughter will become pivotal, and the show features several generations of Black women under one roof. “Other equalizers are much more stoic characters,” she said. 

5. Both actors are here for an “Equalizer"/"NCIS” crossover show. “I would do it in a heartbeat,” LL Cool J said.

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