J. Cole Opens Up About His Relationships With Drake, Kendrick Lamar: 'The Competition Part I’ve Stripped Away'

Illustration for article titled J. Cole Opens Up About His Relationships With Drake, Kendrick Lamar: 'The Competition Part I’ve Stripped Away'
Photo: Tabatha Fireman (Getty Images)

Jermaine Lamarr Cole is having one hell of a week.

Not only is his latest album, The Off-Season, making the Billboard charts its bitch—it’s projected to sell over 300k in its first week—but the Roc Nation rapper also made his pro hoops debut on Sunday as a member of the Basketball African League’s Rwanda Patriots.


The 36-year-old has long been vocal about his love affair with basketball both on and off the mic, and after finally pursuing his dream to become a professional basketball player, he’s being showered with praise for his decision to do so.

When he’s not preoccupied with crossing niggas up on the court for a living, he’s still one of the most successful recording artists of this era. So while promoting his new album, the “Middle Child” rapper hopped on ‎The ETCs with Kevin Durant podcast to discuss his blossoming basketball career, whether he believes he still has to prove himself with his music, and other topics.

Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole are often cited as the benchmark of success for this current crop of emcees. And while the North Carolina native admits that competition once existed between the three, these days, he’s much more concerned with maintaining their friendship.


“I would assume it’s just like basketball,” he begins. “I was so competitive early on, even though we were all friends. [...] I’ve never been a ‘reach-out’ especially when there’s competition involved. It’s almost like working out together—in the NBA that was unheard of, but I was like, ‘Why would I work out with this nigga?I’m trying to destroy this nigga.’ That was my mentality early on. As I’ve gotten older, no one is truly my peer or can relate to what I’m going through in life more than [Drake and Kendrick] […] the competition part I’ve stripped away and I’m more interested in the relationship.”

The Dreamville mastermind also admitted that his decision to play pro ball wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. The seeds had been sown over a decade ago.


“When I signed my deal, I quietly told myself, ‘You’re only 24, if you can blow up in three years, you still got time to train and [play basketball professionally],’ he says. “I was already doing the math at 24. It never goes away because I just love it that much and I’m just a ridiculous dreamer.”

With five platinum albums to his credit, you might also wonder if Fayetville’s finest thinks he still has something to prove with his music.



“I genuinely had thoughts of retiring after Forest Hill Drive,” he says about his 2014 studio album. “I was so happy and content. But I was like, ‘If you did that, are you happy with everything? Did you achieve everything?’ The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘Honestly, bro I want to bar niggas up again. I personally miss that feeling from being a kid just knowing that I got some shit right now that’s better than any of you niggas from a verse and song standpoint.”


The ETCs with Kevin Durant is available on your podcast platform of choice, and for those interested in a taste test, you can listen to J. Cole talk about his relationships with Drake and Kendrick Lamar below.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for y'all to stop putting sugar in grits.


Ninja Robot Pirate

Me: The attempts to control everything about black bodies, particularly our hair, is so insidious and hateful.

Also me: Forget competition, why don’t you try stripping away those damn dreads? All these examples of nice, neat dreads and you choose to look like the guy who sells poorly made Haile Selassie keychains out of his trunk?