LL Cool J’s family tree loses a branch in Tuesday’s new episode of Finding Your Roots. In the sneak peek clip, host Henry Louis Gates Jr. reveals to the perennial Grammys host that the woman he’s known to be his maternal grandmother is actually not biologically related to him.
As the clip describes, LL Cool J’s (born James Smith) mother Ondrea Smith had always been suspicious about the genetic connection between herself and the woman who raised her, Ellen Hightower. After some genetic testing, the Finding Your Roots team was able to confirm that Hightower is indeed not Ondrea’s biological mother, and thus not Cool J’s biological grandmother.
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The rapper reacts to the news, saying, “I mean it’s sad, but at the same time it’s… she was my grandmother. Biologically she wasn’t but spiritually she absolutely will always be.”
In recent episodes, Finding Your Roots has provided insight into Shonda Rhimes’ ancestry and brought Maya Rudolph to tears after revealing to her that her ancestors were slaves. LL Cool J’s episode, which will also feature Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, will air Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS.