Rapper J. Cole has been well known for waxing struggle, whether it’s detailing his less-than-ballin’ moments in the strip club with Drake or his thick eyebrows. He even received some negative press when a lyric on autism slipped into his verse on Drizzy’s “Jodeci Freestyle.” Still, the North Carolina rep has issued a genuine apology to his listeners and continues to relish in the success of his sophomore effort Born Sinner, which beat its release date counterpart Yeezus from Kanye West, to gold status.
While promoting his musical contribution to UbiSoft’s new video game Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Cole went deeper than rap with BET News, speaking on homophobia in Black culture and the color lines that could have dictated his success.
See highlights below:
You don’t get this far without taking risks. What’s been your biggest creative risk?
Producing all my own songs and refusing to go to the hot producer. That’s the biggest risk I’ve taken so far. Constantly taking that risk by not going to whoever is hot and still be as far as I am. It’s a blessing but it’s also been a huge risk because I’m not using the current hip hop sound. Whoever does the beats for people; I didn’t go run to them. Of course I will now because I want to now, I’m tired of having to make the beats from scratch. Up to this point, that’s been my biggest risk I’ve taken, deciding to do it all on my own, production wise.
You got some backlash for anti-gay lyrics and you gave a statement to the Huffington Post. Do you regret using the word “f*****”?
No, not at all. It’s much different than the autism thing, it wasn’t conscious; that was a slip-up, being offensive without intent. The line was to engage the conversation of homophobia in Black culture and in hip hop. I thought it was going to be a way more interesting conversation that came from it. Of course I made the statement, but I thought from that it would spawn better conversations like, “Why are we so homophobic?” Much more than I think any other culture, I don’t want to just compare it to white people, but in terms of jokes that you make — everything’s got to be “pause” or “no homo.” You cant even play basketball without someone saying, “pause.” I’m not innocent of it. I am part of that same culture – but why? That line was supposed to be offensive and confusing, but I was hoping to have more conversations about it.
You’ve talked about including dark-skinned women in your music videos versus all light-skinned women. The light-skinned, dark-skinned issue certainly affects women in hip hop; does it affect men in hip hop?
I can’t say it for sure but I just think we’re still in America. We’re still Black Americans. Those mental chains are still in us. That brainwashing that tells us that light skin is better, it’s subconsciously in us, whether we know it or not… still pursuing light skin women. There are some women out there that are like, “I don’t even like light skin men” and that’s fine. But Barack Obama would not be President if he were dark skin. You know what I mean? That’s just the truth. I might not be as successful as I am now if I was dark skin. I’m not saying that for sure, I’m still as talented as I am and Obama is still as smart as he is, but it’s just a sad truth… I don’t even know if this is going to translate well into text and people not hearing what I’m saying, but it’s a sad reality. So I can only naturally assume it’s probably easier for a light skin male rapper than it might be for a dark skin male rapper. It’s all subconscious s***, nobody’s aware — I think that s*** still subconsciously affects us.
Read the full interview where he also discusses being racially profiled, the Trayvon Martin case and the future of his career here.