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New LL Cool J statue in Queens knocks you out with solar-powered music

On one of his classic early singles, LL Cool J once famously rapped that “I Can’t Live Without My Radio.”

And neither can a new statue of the Queens-born hip-hop legend that resides in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. In fact, the monument to the artist born James Todd Smith features a boom box that is more than just for show — it’s solar-powered to rock hits from throughout his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame career.

“ ‘Radio’ is his first album, so that’s marked in the sculpture,” said Astoria-based sculptor Sherwin Banfield, 45, of the rapper’s 1985 debut LP.

“You got the Kangol hat; you got the young, strong features in the face. And he’s wearing the Cuban link chain from the ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ album cover.”

New LL Cool J statue
Queens native LL Cool J has been immortalized in a new statue by Sherwin Banfield.
Stephen Yang

The statute is located in David Dinkins Circle, not far from the Arthur Ashe statue in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the US Open.

“It’s in the company of Arthur Ashe and David Dinkins,” said Banfield, also noting the nearby presence of Louis Armstrong Stadium. “It’s black-tastic.” 

Banfield was inspired to create the LL statue after the 2018 unveiling of “A Cypher in Queens” — monuments to Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay, A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dog and Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, which also played the music of the late rap icons in Long Island City’s Socrates Sculpture Park.

“That was my first foray into this idea of preserving our hip-hop culture, which I think is necessary,” he said.

Sculptor Sherwin Banfield and his new LL Cool J statue
Sculptor Sherwin Banfield poses in front of his new LL Cool J statue in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
Stephen Yang

Following the success of “A Cypher in Queens,” he said, “One of Jam Master Jay’s friends growing up contacted me and said, ‘Listen, I’m from Hollis, Queens, I grew up with LL, and I believe LL should have [a statue] made for him.’ ” 

After getting funding to start work on the statue in September 2019 at a Governors Island studio space, Banfield found a fitting home for his piece in Queens.

“There was an open call by the New York City Parks Department  that said, ‘Hey, we have an opportunity for artists in Queens to exhibit a work for one year in Flushing Meadows Park,’ ” he said. “And I thought it might be the best place to have this sculpture.” 

The back of Sherwin Banfield's new LL Cool J statue in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
The back of Sherwin Banfield’s new LL Cool J statue in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
Stephen Yang

Made of bronze, stainless steel and a material called Winterstone — “which makes it look like stone,” Banfield explained — the statue got a modern twist by adding solar panels. 

“You need the solar panels to get the rays of the sun converted into electricity, and the solar panels will take the electricity inside of the sculpture [where] you have a battery that will store the energy,” said Banfield. “And that same battery is used to power the speaker and the small amplifier inside.”

LL Cool J in 1987
LL Cool J rocks his trademark Kangol in 1987.

The music is timed to be on continuously from noon to 5 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. And so far it’s a big hit with parkgoers.

“I get DMs from folks who have visited and tag me,” said Banfield. “Some people stumble upon it [when] they’re running through the park, and they go, ‘Wow. When did this get here?’

“The cold is not stopping folks from going to see it. ’Cause people love LL Cool J.” 

Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J performing.
Jennifer Lopez and LL Cool J performing during the 36th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony in October 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Getty Images for The Rock and Ro

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