LL Cool J Faces Down D.C. Sniper Fears
The hip-hop star, 34, threw audience members red roses as well as his handkerchief, his hat, his sweatshirt and his T-shirt as he stripped to reveal his bare chest during a performance at the For Sisters Only Expo inside the Washington, D.C., Convention Center.
LL Cool J (real name: James Todd Smith) tells PEOPLE that he was at the event -- which also featured actor-rapper Coolio, Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child, Grammy-winning gospel group Mary, Mary and singers Deborah Cox, Tweet and Vivian Green -- because "I like to be involved in anything that's going to either support the community, support kids, support something positive and just touch the people. In between the songs I get an opportunity to say something positive to the people."
His upbeat messages included telling fans to "stay focused, have faith in God, stay away from drugs and do something positive," he explained. "I have a son and three daughters. Obviously, I want to encourage them to be independent and to be self-sufficient. And to believe in their dreams."
A native of Queens, N.Y., LL Cool J also admitted that he had been leery about coming to the Washington area after news broke that a sniper was on the loose. "Honestly," he said, "I was thinking about it. But you know, first of all I have faith in God. Secondly, I was born and raised in this country. I'm proud to be American and I don't think living your life in fear is healthy."
His advice: "Feel the fear and do it anyway. Right? Just move past it. Was I concerned? Yes. Was I uncomfortable? Yes. Did I decide to come to D.C. anyway? Yes.
"You've got to think about it like this," he said. "If everyone reacted to fear and we all stopped doing the things that we were thinking about doing or the things that we were planning on doing because of these types of events our whole nation would be paralyzed. Human beings all over the world would be paralyzed. And we wouldn't be able to accomplish anything."