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Paul Simon and LL Cool J are successful artists in their respective music genres. While Simon is a folk-rock legend, LL is a hip-hop icon. In the decades since emerging on the scene, each has built an impressive discography. But the two musicians famously hung out on one unforgettable day in 1987. Here’s a look at how their unlikely visit came about and how the folk-rocker shocked the rapper.

2 different musicians, 1 hometown

Paul Simon and LL Cool J
Paul Simon and LL Cool J in 1987 | Frederic Meylan/Sygma and Paul Natkin via Getty Images

LL Cool J and Simon are two of the most influential musicians. Both have long and storied careers, but their approaches to music-making are very different. Simon is famous for his folky, laid-back sound, while LL Cool J is known for his hard-hitting rap lyrics. The former’s style is subtler and more introspective, while the latter’s is more aggressive and direct.

Despite their differences, both have made an indelible impact on the music industry. And both call the New York City neighborhood of Queens home. In fact, that’s where the classic rock artist and then-teenage hip-hopper bonded on a memorable afternoon in 1987.

Paul Simon stunned LL Cool J the day they hung out

LL Cool J recalled on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2017 his unlikely hangout with Paul Simon in 1987 that surprised the rapper.

“We were doing some kind of interview, and Simon just wanted to come by,” the Grammy-winning rapper explained. “I remember we went to a high school or junior high school. And I remember saying, ‘I’m not sure they’re gonna know who Paul is.'”

However, when Simon was introduced to the young, all-Black audience, “pandemonium” broke out.

“These are Black kids,” LL Cool J stressed to Kimmel. “I was blown away that all these little Black kids knew Paul Simon. It was shocking. You gonna sit there and tell me you think Paul Simon is known in the hood? Would you think that?”

Last month, Simon fondly recalled his visit with LL Cool J by tweeting throwback photos of the two artists. In the snaps, taken in 1987 in Queens, the two sit side-by-side at the foot of a bed in a cramped studio in LL’s grandma’s basement.

The New York Times was also there that day and described the dichotomy: “LL Cool J, the 19-year-old Black rap star, is a brawny young giant with the animal magnetism and amiable self-assurance of the young Muhammad Ali. His companion, Paul Simon, is diminutive, white, and, at the age of 45, a soft-spoken sage of adult rock-and-roll.”

Yet there they were, exchanging stories, reminiscing about their “first involvement with pop,” and taking turns “playing each other’s records.”

The musical exchange ended only “when LL’s grandmother [sent] word from upstairs to ‘turn it down.'”

What are LL Cool J and Paul Simon doing now?


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LL Cool J was finally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame after receiving six nominations in 2021, along with Tina Turner, Carole King, The Go-Gos, Jay-Z, Todd Rundgren, and Foo Fighters. 

Beyond making music, LL remains busy with a successful acting career. He has played Special Agent Sam Hanna on NCIS: Los Angeles for the past 12 years, earning him two NAACP Image Awards and a Teen Choice Award. 

He has also appeared in numerous films. But arguably his most memorable role was as the absurdly funny cook with the pet parrot in the cult classic Deep Blue Sea.

Simon keeps himself occupied these days as well. The decorated musician retired from touring in 2018 after embarking on Homeward Bound: The Farewell Tour after recording five studio albums with Simon & Garfunkel and 13 studio albums as a solo artist.

One of the most accomplished and prolific songwriters, he continues penning and recording music, including his latest album, 2022’s Reflections (Of My Life). 

Despite their differences, LL Cool J and Paul Simon share a mutual admiration and an appreciation for what it takes to make it in the music industry.