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The Lessons LL Cool J Taught His Four Children about Money, Fame and the Real World

Aby Rivas
Nov 24, 2019
04:00 P.M.
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Rapper, actor and TV host, LL Cool J, is the proud father of four grown-up children, two of which already have their own families. Although the "NCIS: LA" star raised his kids in the spotlight, he also made sure to instill important values in them, and today, they couldn't be more grateful.


Grammy Award winner and “NCIS: Los Angeles” star LL Cool J, might have risen to fame under the image of a fierce hip hop artist, but with time, he has proven to be a kind-hearted and funny man, both in and off cameras.

LL Cool J, Simone Smith and family at The Fashion Institute of Technology on May 25, 2017 | Photo: GettyImages


The mother of his kids

He’s been married to wife Simone for 24 years, and together, they are the proud parents of four grown-up children: son Najee, and daughters Italia, Samaria, and Nina.

LL, real name James Todd Smith, met Simone while they were both teenagers.

He was driving and stopped to say hi to a friend at his house when said friend offered to introduce his cousin. Although he initially refused, LL then caught sight of Simone and changed his mind.

Simone Smith and LL Cool J at the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 26, 2017 | Photo: GettyImages


It was also important that his kids knew the meaning of hard work because he believes that allowing them to sit around and “not contribute” is like “stealing someone’s soul.”

They started dating soon after and eventually married in 1995.

The couple has one of the few long-lasting marriages in Hollywood, and part of their strength is the many obstacles they have faced in the way. Like the time Simone was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, a rare bone cancer.

LL Cool J and Simone Smith, at the Artist's Dinner honoring the recipients of the 40th Annual Kennedy Center Honors on December 2, 2017 | Photo: GettyImages


The matriarch of the family had to undergo a 15-hour surgery, and it took her two years to recover since she had to learn how to walk all over again.

LL Cool J was by his wife’s side through it all, putting his career on pause at the time to take care of his family.

How his past shaped his parenting style

Because he had a difficult childhood—he saw his father shoot his mother and grandfather at age 4—LL made sure to provide his kids with the best parenting he could.

LL Cool J poses for photos during a press conference at Hotel St. Regis on June 5, 2019 in Mexico City, Mexico | Photo: GettyImages


However, he didn’t make the mistake of spoiling them, as many other celebrities do with their kids.

Instead of handing them everything on a silver plate, the rapper made sure to instill values in his children and the notion of working hard for whatever they want to achieve in life.

Nina Symone, 19, is the only one of the bunch that followed her father’s steps into the industry.


“After my experience coming up, I’ve been a little uncomfortable with really putting a lot of pressure on my kids,” he said in an episode of “Oprah’s Master Class.” “But I’m a stickler for excellence. And I’m not going to spoil you.”

He admitted that there is nothing with helping the kids get into a position, but he prefers to know his kids earned it and deserve it.

The best lessons

Talking to Oprah Winfrey on a different show, the media mogul asked the Smith kids what the best lesson they learned from their father was.


Son Najee, the oldest, said his dad taught him he can do anything as long as he sets his mind to it.

Samaria, on the other hand, revealed that as they were growing up, LL would continuously give them small pep talks “every few days” reminding them that:

“You can do anything you put your mind to. You’re beautiful. You’re talented. You’re smart.”


Nina joked, saying the pep talks took place “like every five minutes.”

“I just try to lead by example,” LL Cool J added, and recalled that cornering his kids to rely quick and small pep talks was one of his favorite things to do as a father. As he explained:

“I’ve been telling my kids that all their lives. I’ve always been trying to really teach them to believe in themselves and not to be limited.”

For the “Lip-Sync Battle” star, it was also important that his kids knew the meaning of hard work because he believes that allowing them to sit around and “not contribute” is like “stealing someone’s soul.”


When asked about the hardest thing of being a father, the 51-year-old replied: “Remaining open-minded. I try to stay confident in the values I've instilled in my kids so I can give them space.”

Meet the kids

LL’s kids have all turned out to be incredibly talented.


Najee, 30, is a talented photographer.


Italia, 28, is a real estate agent and has been married to Lamar Cardinez for three years.

The couple welcomed their first child, son King James, in 2018.


Samaria, 24, is a model and designer who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with two degrees: fashion design and merchandising.

Now, she’s applying that knowledge with her newly-open denim store, where she embellishes vintage pants.


Nina Symone, 19, is the only one of the bunch that followed her father’s steps into the industry.

She graduated from high school and made her debut as a singer this year with the single “Call Me.” She’s also a model and Instagram star.