"Obviously, 2Pac's my favorite rapper of all time," said J. Cole in a 2011 interview on San Francisco radio station Wild 94.9. "And then we go to—no particular order after that—Nas, Jay, Eminem and... I'ma say André 3000, right? Just cause, y'know, super-duper storyteller, creative flows."

Speaking at Harvard this past February, he brought up Nas, Eminem, Canibus, Big Pun and Jay-Z as important influences on him when he was growing up.