Hot off a record-breaking new album KOD, J. Cole opens up about its drug-inspired concept in a rare interview with Vulture. “We live in a society where all this drug use is normalized,” he says. “It’s okay, it’s f-king encouraged, it’s f-king promoted. You turn on the TV — you feeling down? Of course I’m feeling down, I’m a f-king human being. Try this. Whatever this thing is. Like, nah, how about you actually feel sad and figure out what the f-k it is that got you feeling sad, so you can work on that?”
During the lengthy piece, Cole also credits Kendrick Lamar with KOD’s inspiration. “Kendrick’s [‘DAMN. Tour’] show gave me chills because I got to see what it was like to have a hit album performed, and it set off a desire,” he explained. “It was a recognition — like Oh, I’ll take that again. Like looking at a menu, I’ll have that again.”
Elsewhere, Cole shutters speculation about who “1985 (Intro to ‘The Fall Off’)” might be about. “It’s really a ‘shoe fits’ situation — several people can wear that shoe,” he explains. “Why you yelling at your show? You must feel attacked in some kind of way, must feel offended, and if you feel offended, then that means something rings true, something struck a chord. That’s cool with me. That’s all I ever want to do.”
The in-depth profile also features outside voices. Jermaine’s mom Kay Cole reveals her thoughts after hearing “Once an Addict,” which is about her alcoholism. “For him to tell it — does it hurt, it is a bit embarrassing? Yes,” she said. “But Jermaine was given a gift. Certainly he’s talented, intelligent, he’s a hard worker and perseveres. He was also given this gift of compassion. And patience. And unconditional love. Humans have been self-medicating since the beginning of time, but let’s talk why.”
Kevin Hart also co-signs “Kevin’s Heart,” which is all about his infidelity. “I thought it was dope,” Hart said on the set of the song’s video, which he starred in. “It wasn’t done from a hateful or spiteful place. It was done with a smart intent behind it, which I think a lot of Cole’s stuff is done.”
Cole, who is married with at least one son, also shared Dave Chappelle’s parenting advice. “He said: ‘You’ll hit another gear, you’ll hit a gear that you never knew you had when you have kids.’ It actually proved to be true,” Cole said.
Beyond these topics, Cole also talks about stereotypes, depression, and Lil Peep in the article. Read additional quotes from the story below.
ON BORING LABEL: “Once I took control of my own shit, stopped giving power to other people for my happiness and success, it became like, Oh word, I’ll show you how boring I am. And it became another person to prove wrong.”
ON DEPRESSION: “I didn’t like how I felt about my life [in 2014]. I’d been depressed for like three years. And I realized I was putting too much importance on what other people thought about me. Also, my mom going through her shit had a traumatic impact on me, and I never had a chance to process that shit. I just put my head down. I wasn’t having an honest conversation with myself.”
ON WIFE: “I’m a f-king successful rapper, who can literally at the drop of a hat go anywhere, do anything, have mad adventures. But there was no better decision I could have made than the discipline I put on myself of having responsibility, having another human being — my wife — that I have to answer to. Family can literally be the thing you always needed, bring balance and meaning and fuel your creativity, give you purpose.”
ON STEREOTYPES: “If you exclude the top three rappers in the game, the most popping rappers all are exaggerated versions of black stereotypes. Extremely tatted up. Colorful hair. Flamboyant. Brand names. It’s caricatures, and still the dominant representation of black people, on the most popular entertainment format for black people, period.”
ON NEW RAPPERS: “I’m now in a place where I can hear people and get excited, like this kid is dope as f-k. I wasn’t there before — everybody was trash.”
ON LIL PEEP’S DEATH: “The album is already a warning, and this kid dies while I’m sitting in the studio mixing the shit — do you know how creepy that was? That shit was heavy.”