J. Cole is a man of his art and a man of his word. The rapper, who doesn’t often get too personal with his social media usage, is making up for the perceived digital distance in a new cover story for Billboard.
During the in-depth conversation, he and journalist Dee Lockett cover a lot of difficult ground, including how his relationship with his rap idol Nas has changed, how he feels about “cancel culture” and why he feels the late XXXTentacion had a “strong desire to be a better person.” Overall, the conversation holds a theme of how J. Cole has shifted his energy away from people he has previously vocalized strong support for.
To start, Nas has been an extremely influential person in regards to J. Cole’s own path as a rapper, lyricist and overall person, with the recent allegations of abuse made by his ex-wife Kelis forcing Cole to face the hurt that comes from having to reevaluate one’s lifelong hero.
“Yeah, that hurt. I ain’t going to lie. That hurts. It feels weird because I f—k with Nas, but I just have to be honest,” Cole admits in the interview. “I came up seeing too much f—ked-up s—t for that to be acceptable. I don’t care who it is. I don’t f—k with people abusing women, and I don’t f—k with people not taking care of their kids.”
Choosing to distance himself from someone he once wholeheartedly admired and viewed through a lens of undeniable respect is something that many are going through in today’s day and age, particularly as intensified by the dawn of movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, with hip-hop culture beginning to be no exception.
The conversation then turns to the trending concept of cancel culture, something that Cole offers an interesting perspective on.
“That’s tough because we’re talking about black women,” Cole shared, commenting on the idea that someone can be legitimately “canceled” or not. “If it was a white woman involved with these allegations, then sadly—I’m realizing as I’m talking to you—maybe people wouldn’t cancel them just as quick, but labels would be forced to cancel, because white outrage is way more powerful than black outrage, unfortunately. When white people start getting outraged about this type of s—t, then maybe something will happen.”
Elsewhere throughout the interview, Cole also elaborated on his response to the murder of XXXTentacion, as well as offered some insight into why he tweeted what he did in the moment. At the time of X’s death, he was facing numerous charges, including aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, and witness tampering, among others.
“When I found out [about the abuse allegations against him], my first response was, ‘Man, I hope maybe one day I’ll get a chance to talk to this kid and figure out if there’s any place that I can help,” Cole shares. “Because anybody who would do the s—t that he did…. Hurt people hurt people. I’ve walked through prisons and talked to these dudes who got life. They took someone’s life at 16 or 17 years old. You haven’t had the chance to process your trauma at that age. I’ma be sympathetic to a kid who has clearly been through so much f—ked-up s—t that he inflicted this on someone else.”
Take a look at J. Cole’s latest interview in full, via Billboard.