Still riding high off the success of his sophomore effort Born Sinner, J. Cole sat down with Wall Street Journal’s Lee Hawkins for an in-depth conversation about graduating magna cum laude from St. John’s University, having disagreements with his mentor/ Roc Nation boss Jay Z, the slow-burning journey of his success and what he’s learned from being around Hov’s buddies Warren Buffett, LeBron James and William “Uncle Wes” Wesley. See highlights below:
On the “Jodeci Freestyle” autism line affecting his brand:
“What happened was I put out the song I didn’t think twice about the song because rappers, we try to be so clever with wordplay. It wasn’t immediate. A few weeks later after the song came out, I started seeing activity, comments from outraged fans about the line which made me think twice like ‘Oh man.’ It’s almost like I realized what I said and got embarrassed about it. So what I did was I wrote a very sincere letter. We’re in a day and age where you can tweet out, ‘Oh I apologize for this’ and that’s enough but I didn’t think it was enough so I wrote an apology, which was well received. In terms of it affecting my brand, I don’t think so. My brand is heartfelt. People know that I mean what I say. It wasn’t like I got some type of endorsement and was worried about losing it. I could’ve kept silent but I brought more attention to it by apologizing.”
On making power moves that benefit in the long run:
“It’s a marathon. This business is a long-distance race. You wanna be relevant. You wanna be around. You wanna be providing for your family 10, 15, 20 years from now. Jay Z is about to be 44. He put out his first album when he was 25. That’s 20 years of relevancy. That’s what I learn from being around all these guys, especially Uncle Wes who’s been in this game of basketball for a long time. So when I make decisions, whether it’s which single, this show or that show, or this tour, should I get on this feature, should I take this money … does this further my career? I think about things in that manner. What does this do for me in the long run?”
On setting an example for the youth:
“I want people to follow their dreams yes…but I’m not interested in telling young black kids how to be rappers…I want to show them that there’s so many other paths you can take, besides a rapper or basketball player,” he says.
Check out the nearly hour-long interview above.