As I was finishing up my first listen to J. Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive when the album first hit the 'net in early December, I heard a line that was more shocking than any about Eminem, Elvis or Iggy Azalea, or Drake or Kendrick Lamar.
"Man, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., dawg. I'm never gon' forget, this is gonna sound crazy but I'm never gonna forget that sh-t you told me, yo," Cole said on the spoken outro of "Note to Self."
"For, real, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., man, thank you, dawg. From the bottom of my heart. That sh-t you said to me changed my life man. And I ain't never gon' forget, ever for real. For real Dale, form me to you, you my n---a man, for real. I love you boy."
"What the hell?" I thought. "This is incredible."
Unfortunately, a few seconds later, Cole admitted he was lying -- but it turns out the decision to lie about the famed race car driver, of all people, wasn't a random one.
"There was an interview Dale Jr. did that asked him what he plays before races, and he said 'J. Cole "Power Trip,"' which freaked me out!" Jermaine told ESPN the Magazine, whose new cover he shares with Dale. "What is Dale Earnhardt Jr. doing playing my sh-t? How did he even find out about it? You don't think somebody on that level would ever hear your stuff. From there, I never forgot. I was always like, 'Yo, I ride with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'"
So when the rapper was recording "Note to Self," which served as an album credits page, since he didn't get actual credits in on time, he decided he wanted to give a fake shout-out -- and that DEJ was the perfect pick.
Dale was flattered by the shoutout, and thinks their budding relationship could spark something larger.
"This will change people's minds about things," the fellow North Carolina native said. "It reminds people that no matter where you're from or how you dress or look, your interests and likes are more in common with other people than one can imagine. It always makes me laugh when my interests surprise someone, and it's as fun to enlighten someone as to be enlightened yourself. Be an open-minded individual or you could miss out on some really cool sh-t."