LL Cool J reflects on life as an empty nester

 “They have to go after their dreams,” LL Cool J said when reflecting on his children moving out.

LL Cool J is officially an empty nester, and he’s “doing it well.” Recently, the rapper-turned-actor opened up about what life is like with his kids now out of the house. 

“I take life as it comes, and I’m just enjoying myself. And like I said, you’re put on this planet to maximize your potential. And so my life isn’t defined by the fact that my kids graduated college, which I’m very happy for them,” he told People magazine. “They have to go after their dreams, and I have to continue to go after mine and make sure that I’m fulfilling my purpose on this planet.” 

Now that his four children — Nina, 23; Samaria, 27; Italia, 32, and Najee, 33 — have all moved out, LL Cool J is returning to his work in the “NCIS” universe. In 2009, the rapper joined the beloved TV franchise’s Los Angeles spinoff. After taking a hiatus from the series, LL Cool J will reprise his role on “NCIS Hawai’i.”

“I must go after what’s in my spirit or what I’m inspired to go after. And so that’s how I approach life. You know what I mean? So that never changed. That doesn’t change, whether the kids were in school or out of school,” he added. 

Like any parent, the star is proud to see his children grow up — even if that includes awkward encounters with his daughters’ boyfriends. Raising three girls, LL Cool J has met his share of nervous young men wanting to date his daughters. 

“Yeah, I’ve had some moments where some boyfriends have given me awkward handshakes and stuff like that,” he said, per People. “They can’t figure out how they want to [approach me], you know what I mean? And I’ve seen the bottom lip with the tremor … All that tremor lip and all that. When we see tremor lips, how are you going to handle the world if you tremor lip with me? You want to be a little more solid than that.” 

Beyond dating, the rapper was adamant about leading by example when raising his kids. Encouraging his children to believe they can do anything they put their minds to, he previously told Oprah’s Masterclass he’s not raising spoiled children. 

“This is the real world; they are real people. And I’m a blue-collar guy at the end of the day,” he said. “I’m not going to raise spoiled kids that just don’t know what the real world is like, who think they don’t have to do anything to contribute.”

In May 2023, LL Cool J and his wife of 29 years, jewelry designer Simone I. Smith, celebrated their youngest daughter’s graduation from Berklee College of Music. With each of their children stepping into their respective careers, LL Cool J is ultimately a proud father with dreams of his own left to pursue. 

“I love them, and I’m happy for them, and I want to be supportive of them in every way,” he shared. “But it’s important to me that I always go after my dreams. I don’t think we should miss out on our own dreams. Know what I’m saying? So I’m just going to continue to live. And I’m thankful. You know what I’m saying? I’m grateful, and I love them.”

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