He may have been born in Germany, but after moving to America as a child, 26-year-old rapper J Cole is now taking the world by storm with hit single ‘In The Morning’ featuring US rap buddy Drake. Having recently supported Drake on his country-hopping tour, Cole is accumulating plenty of fans in the run-up to his album launch this spring.
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 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’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 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 that 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 James Taylor and Peter, Paul and Mary as a kid. They’re part of my roots. 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. I’ve enjoyed my life, so I’m choosing to come back and do it all again, with slight variations. But after my next go round, I’ll try something else. Maybe another universe.’
He used to be very secretive about his music.
‘I was always so private about my music that a lot of people probably never knew that I was even doing it. I’ve 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 kinda like an alter ego, like I was Clark Kent and in private I was Superman.’
He’s a fan of Brit MC 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. Incredible. 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.’
J Cole’s latest mixtape, Friday Night Lights, is available for free download from www.jcolemusic.com. His debut album is slated for release in March.