J Cole interview

Up-and-coming American remix specialist talks to Time Out


The up-and-coming American remix specialist is gearing up for a big year, having just been signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label. Here are a few little-known facts...

Gangsta rap never did him any harm.
When I was eight years old, I’d rap along with Dre’s dirty lyrics in the car with my stepfather. Back then, it was a big thing about whether parents should let their kids listen to rap music or not, but, luckily, my mother was never the type to stop anything that I listened to. I was still smart and I still went to college. It never really affected me in a negative way.

He’s a ‘deep thinker’.
I could never imagine myself just being a purely materialistic rapper. I can’t imagine not caring about life, people’s interaction, social issues… I’m just a deep thinker by nature. It’s a part of who I am, so it’s reflected in the music I create. I’m not the deepest guy in the world, but I do speak my mind.

He was ‘class clown’ at school.
I was a goofball. I was always looking for attention, any laugh I could get – that was me. One time in the eighth grade we had to write an essay from the perspective of somebody we admired. I chose Mike Tyson, and I read my speech in a boxing uniform, imitating Tyson’s high-pitched voice.

The music of his childhood means a lot to him.
My mom took me to see Peter, Paul and Mary, and James Taylor as a kid. They’re a part of my roots. I always go back to the James Taylors, Peter, Paul and Marys and Eric Claptons of the world just because I was raised with that music, and I love it.

He’d do it all over again, and is hoping he gets the chance.
I believe that when you die, whatever you believe about the afterlife is what will happen. Me personally, I just truly enjoyed my life, so I’m choosing to come back, and do it all over again, with slight variations. But after my next go round, then I’ll try something else. Maybe a whole other universe.

He used to be very secretive about his music.
I was always so private about my music that a lot of people never knew I was doing it. I got this line on my mixtape: ‘If they don’t know your dreams, then they can’t shoot ’em down.’ When I started rapping, it was like an alter ego, like I was Clark Kent and in private I was Superman.

He’s a fan of P Money.
I haven’t listened to much grime, but I wish I knew more about it. I’ve seen a video on YouTube of some dude named P Money. He’s just got this incredibly crazy, vicious verse. If he’s any indication of the scene, then man, I’m sure it’s incredible. He’s the best? That’s for sure.

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