In life and in the rap game alike, seeking the guidance and wisdom of a mentor is an underrated major key. What better way to navigate through life than by learning from someone who has already gone through it? Just ask J. Cole.

While he is now known as one of the most influential, talented and successful rappers to emerge to the forefront of hip-hop culture in the past decade, J. Cole had to start somewhere.

Years prior to earning his big break, the aspiring rapper waited outside of JAY-Z’s Roc the Mic studio in hopes he’d be able to garner the music mogul’s attention and play some of his original music for him. Unfortunately, after waiting for hours with no luck, J. Cole realized he’d have to keep grinding in order to land a meeting with one of his biggest inspirations. His persistence and dedication to his craft ended up paying off, eventually going on to sign with JAY-Z’s Roc Nation Imprint in 2009.

Through dedication and trusting the process, J. Cole and JAY-Z went on to form an important bond, with Hov embracing his role of a mentor and offering priceless gems of advice firsthand.

Now, years later, with plenty of records under his belt and JAY-Z’s original Roc chain in his collection, J. Cole is taking on the role of a mentor as well, a move that deserves a lot of credit as the generational gap in hip-hop can often feel divisive.

Recently, Cole decided to get the entire culture talking, choosing to sit down with 17-year-old rapper Lil Pump in an effort to not only end a seemingly misguided beef, but to turn their differences into a teachable moment for others. Their hour-long conversation, which was recorded at J. Cole’s Sheltuh studio in North Carolina, signified a full-circle moment for the 33-year-old rapper, one where he embraced taking on the role of a mentor instead of writing off the younger generation for being so aesthetically different.

In fact, J. Cole’s effort to position himself as an ally to someone like Lil Pump is not only admirable, but one that veteran and emerging rappers alike can learn from. After all, giving back to the youth and sharing experiences is one way to ensure the culture moves forward, and for that, we salute J. Cole, JAY-Z and Lil Pump alike.

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