LL Cool J Opens Up About Being an Empty Nester: 'They Have to Go After Their Dreams' (Exclusive)

LL Cool J opens up about a new phase in his relationship with his kids

<p>Stefanie Keenan/Getty</p> LL Cool J attends as Shari Redstone & Gelila Assefa Puck Host Rebuilding Bridges Dinner on October 17, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.

Stefanie Keenan/Getty

LL Cool J attends as Shari Redstone & Gelila Assefa Puck Host Rebuilding Bridges Dinner on October 17, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.

LL Cool J is getting used to developing a new dynamic for himself and with his kids.

The father of four has kids that are all grown up, with youngest Nina, 22, recently graduating college and moving out. The NCIS: Hawai'i' actor, 56, opened up to PEOPLE about having more time to himself with Nina and older siblings Samaria, 27, Italia, 32, and Najee, 33, all out of the house.

"I'm looking forward to just this NCIS: Hawaii thing. Beyond that, 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. 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," he shares with PEOPLE.

LL Cool J says that his kids are familiar with his "approach" and "nothing" changed in that regard.

"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 says.

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<p>Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic</p> LL Cool J and family in 2016


LL Cool J and family in 2016

Related: LL Cool J's 4 Kids: Everything to Know

Of his kids, he continues, "I love them, and I'm happy for them, and I want to be supportive of them in every way, 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."

In an interview with the rapper for his new Coors Light Super Bowl commercial, LL Cool J was asked about a scene in the ad where a dad is meeting his daughter's boyfriend.

"Yeah, I've had some moments where some boyfriends have given me awkward handshakes and stuff like that," he told PEOPLE on set. "You know what I'm saying? Don't quite get it yet. They can't figure out how they want to...you know what I mean? And I've seen the bottom lip with the tremor."

"I'm saying that's a giveaway that you might want to rethink that choice a little bit," he clarified. "All that tremor lip and all that. When we see tremor lip, how are you going to handle the world if you tremor lip with me?"

"You want to be a little more solid than that. You know what I'm saying? But that's just my personal opinion."

Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic LL Cool J
Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic LL Cool J

For the "Doin' It" rapper, being a dad is his favorite job. But despite his own success, LL Cool J instilled the importance of hard work in his four children and avoided spoiling them. He opened up about his parenting approach in a 2017 episode of Oprah's Master Class.

"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."

He continued, "I just try to lead by example, encourage them ... make sure that they know they can do anything that they put their minds to."

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