LL Cool J Explains His Love for Enormous, Diamond Name-Plate Rings

I wouldn’t call myself a ring person per se. Like, I’m not the dude who walks around with a 9,000-carat pinkie ring or anything like that. But around 1989, during the original Dapper Dan era, a lot of the guys uptown in Harlem had these big rings with their names on them, and I just got in the zone with it. Ladies Love Cool James had been my [stage] name since I was 16, and I needed a Cool J ring.

So I went down to Manny the Jeweler in New York’s Diamond District and got one made. It meant a lot to be able to buy it for myself because growing up in the hood, it was like, “Yo, trick, look at this big ring I got on. Look at what I’ve accomplished in my life!” When you don’t come from much, that kind of thing means a lot.

The ring was amazing, but then after a night of parties and a lot of Champagne ... I lost it. So I bought another one. A couple more parties and a little more Champagne and that one was gone too. I kept buying new versions of the ring, and each time I’d switch up the font a little bit or flip the quality of the diamonds. Now I’ve managed to hang on to about 10 of them.

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The piece has become part of my vibe. I still wear it a lot, but mostly at night (it would be a little ridiculous to be sitting in Starbucks with my Cool J ring on at 2 in the afternoon). But whenever I look down, it brings back a lot of memories, a lot of passion. It reminds me that anything is possible — that you can be from any walk of life, and if you go after what you want wholeheartedly with courage and faith, you can make it happen.

—As told to Jennifer Ferrise.

LL Cool J’s radio station for classic hip-hop, Rock the Bells Radio, airs on SiriusXM (Channel 43). For more stories like this, pick up the December issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download now.