J. Cole is earnest in a way most rappers are bred not to be. On his latest album, KOD, the Fayetteville MC descended from the mountaintop with a message. The project was the audio equivalent of an older brother arriving home from college, disgusted at the excess a younger brother and his friends have wrought. In an in-depth interview with Angie Martinez this week, Cole opens up about his inner demons and his view on the world and the rap game that reflects it.
Discussions about Cole's issues with Kanye West weave into tangents about the damaging effects of celebrity and his problems with rappers like Lil Pump. Sincere, contemplative, and cerebral, the 90-minute conversation is a rare look into the mind of one of hip-hop's most elusive stars.
Below are some of the most eye-opening moments from the interview.
Cold Conversations With KanyePhoto by Johnny Nunez/WireImage
J. Cole and Kanye West have had a tense relationship since 2016's "False Prophets." Lines like "He's fallin' apart, but we deny it / Justifying that half-ass shit he dropped, we always buy it" were clearly subliminals directed at West. In May, Kanye posted a screenshot of a call he had with Cole on Twitter. During the interview with Martinez, Jermaine addressed his disappointment with the interaction.
"He called me, but I would've never posted that or like tell him to post that," Cole said. "You know what I mean? That made me feel a certain type of way. I told him that. He apologized. For the record. It's not like I'm just saying this, but then I told him it felt like you just used my name in that very quick conversation for social media and to keep your thing going. Whatever you were doing, it felt like it wasn't sincere, because of that."
Why Did J. Cole Stop Drinking?Photo by Brian Feinzimer/WireImage
KOD, or "Kidz On Drugs," is an album that deals with the hardships of addiction. In one of the most vulnerable portions of the discussion, Cole shared what led him to set aside alcohol.
"I would have never even thought the day would've came where I stopped drinking, because to me it wasn't even a big deal," he said. "But this is when I noticed it was a big deal, because when I tried to go out that night and, like, not drink, I could feel the pull and the tug."
Cole continued to discuss how his body was giving him clear signals that he needed to stop.
"Putting myself in these situations and when I noticed that pull and that tug," the "ATM" rapper said. "That my body, my mind was telling me like, 'Yo, damn, I want to have a drink.' That's what let me know something is there"
Who Is Kill Edward?Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
J. Cole is so well known for his apprehension about featuring other artists on his albums, it launched a meme. However, when the KOD tracklist was revealed, fans noticed that someone named "Kill Edward" was listed on two tracks. During his sit down with Martinez, Cole revealed that Edward is the name of his stepfather. According to Cole, his stepfather was abusive and the new rap name helped him work through those troubling memories.
"When I say 'Kill Edward,' what I'm talking about is the shit that I feel like I inherited from him... it's like, cleansing myself of that traumatic experience."
Do Drake and J. Cole Still Text?Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage
KOD broke Apple Music's U.S. record for most streams in the first 24 hours, toppling Drake's previous record with 2016's Views. In a lighthearted moment during the chat, Martinez asked if the "In The Morning" duo discussed the feat.
"Yeah, he text me," Cole said. "He said 'I hate you.' Nah, I'm joking... I don't hear from him."
We Are Never Getting That Cole and Kendrick AlbumPhoto by Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Fans have to give it to J. Cole for his honesty. The collab album between Kendrick Lamar and Cole has been a rumor for years. Unfortunately, one half of the duo had to dash fans' misguided hopes about the project releasing soon.
"I don't want to keep teasing people," Cole said. "I don't want to play with people's emotions."
Too late Jermaine, too late.
1985 Marketing PloysPhoto by David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns
J. Cole and Lil Pump are not on the best of terms. "1985 - 'Intro to the Fall Off'" is a subtle message to Pump, Smokepurpp, and a legion of young rappers who Cole has gone on record calling, "exaggerated versions of black stereotypes." During his talk with Martinez, Cole described how he had heard a group of rappers proudly proclaiming "Fuck J. Cole" a year ago.
"The reason why I wrote that, that 'Fuck J. Cole" chant you seen, I don't know if you know that was prominent for at least year before that song ["1985"] came out," he said. "It was a whole energy happening. This was new to me."
Cole continued to explain to Angie that he understood the underlying reason rappers like Pump and Purpp went after him.
"It's like a marketing ploy," he stated. "I understood it better than. It's trolling."