J. Cole may have let Nas down but the Born Sinner has gems in the stash when it comes to this here thing called life. Turning 30 today (Jan. 28), the North Carolina rapper has been on a mission to be a god MC, recently pushing out arguably his best LP to date, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Here, we’ve dusted off some of the Dreamville captain’s most insightful, revealing and humbling quotes. Sallie Mae couldn’t even touch this.
1. “When I got to high school, becoming cool was way more important. In retrospect, it’s just some high school shit. It was more like, ‘OK, how do I figure out how to get these girls?’ I started dressing better. I still had a little bit of the class clown in me, but high school, it was such a new thing for me, I didn’t have that same spirit that I had in middle school. In middle school, I was a little star.” —GlobalGrind, August 2013
2. “People I grew up with tell me it’s getting worse. I don’t know if that has to do with the economy or if the education is getting worse. On the flipside, Fayetteville has some heroes now—even if they’re rappers or athletes… It sucks that these things have to come from sports and entertainment, but it’s something for kids to look up to and say, ‘Somebody from here did something.’ I don’t want to inspire kids to rap. I want to let them know that anything they want to do is possible. I come from here and did some shit that was impossible, so if you want to be an astronaut, lawyer, doctor, writer, journalist, or whatever, I want to inspire you to do that.” —Complex, Dec 2014/ Jan 2015
3. “If you could imagine a town called Dreamville, which is really to me, a mixture of my hometown Fayetteville and the city of dreams, New York. So it’s like this fictional town where the story takes place and within this setting there’s all these different aspects of life. Whether it’s the main character’s issues, family issues, relationship issues and then there’s this whole other issue of him trying to accomplish his goals. Prison issues, family members locked up. I see it like a movie.” —VIBE, May 2010
4. “There’s some shit that’s way more important than how many albums I sell and if I’m the best… You have no control over what somebody else feels about you, but you have 100 percent control over how you feel about yourself and how you feel about the people around you and how you handle life. I became happier and started to deal with shit more, not run from the feelings.” —Complex, Dec 2014/ Jan 2015
5. “If it wasn’t for Jay-Z they wouldn’t even be talking about me…so until I put out an album, make a classic, put out hit singles, I’m gonna be Jay-Z’s artist. But the only thing that’s gonna get me out of his shadow is building my own personal shadow.” —XXL, Oct 2009
6. “I feel like I am officially in the game, but I also feel like I’m not where I want to be. I’m far from it. I got a lot more things to do. I got a lot more respect to get…Kanye [West] and Jay-Z are doing arenas. I got a long way to go before I can do an arena. I want to perform in an arena or stadium one day, depending on how big this thing gets. An arena? That’s 20,000 people coming to see you. To do a tour of arenas and then headlining that? That’s incredible. So I’ve got a long way to go. I know I got a long way to go.” —YRB, Dec 2011