In a new cover story with Billboard, J. Cole speaks on XXXtentacion, Nas, voting, and more. He takes time to relay his complicated feelings about X’s assault accusations, and recalls one “super-intense” conversation he had with the late rapper months before his death.
“I spoke to him on FaceTime one day in February for, like, three hours,” Cole recalled. “His management reached out to Ib and asked if he could FaceTime me or call me. It was a super-intense conversation. He left a mark on me, just as a person.”
The conversation took a turn to spirituality, and from it, Cole gathered X was dealing with some deeper problems of his own. “He was talking about spiritually and mentally, and that was intense because I was like, ‘Huh? I’m not on no level,’” Cole said. “He was praising me while also saying he was going to achieve whatever it is he felt that I had. I’ve dealt with mentally ill people in my life before, many of them. And right away, I notice that this kid is super passionate and smart, but I could also see that he was so deep in his mind.”
From this FaceTime, and Cole's other experiences talking with young black men caught up in the criminal justice system, the KOD rapper assumes that X dealt with trauma that caused him to unleash pain onto others.
“Because anybody who would do the shit that he did...Hurt people hurt people,” he said, referring to X’s horrific abuse allegations. “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 fucked-up shit that he inflicted this on someone else.”
The conversation about abuse then shifted to Nas, who has been publicly accused by his ex-wife and singer Kelis of being physically abusive. When it comes to the veteran rapper, Cole takes a harder stance.
“It feels weird because I fuck with Nas, but I just have to be honest. I came up seeing too much fucked-up shit for that to be acceptable. I don’t care who it is,” he said. “I don’t fuck with people abusing women, and I don’t fuck with people not taking care of their kids.”
As far as Cole’s current trajectory goes, the North Carolina rapper plans to take 2019 off to work on The Off Season, a project that could become an EP or a full mixtape. He’ll also be working on his next album, The Fall Off, and a side project that puts his new alter-ego Kill Edward front and center.
Outside of music, J. Cole’s takes on everything from pop culture to social media and politics are revealed to be lukewarm. He doesn’t spend time sharing his opinions on platforms like Twitter, and doesn’t get past reading the headlines of major news stories.
“Rarely do I feel the need to hop on Twitter or social media and chime in, especially on rap and music shit. This shit is not real. This shit is fucking fake. This shit is high school. This shit is fucking celebrity worship,” he said, before emphasizing that he also doesn't give politics much attention. “I speak better from the heart, out loud. And when it really moves me, I’ll do it. But politics really doesn’t interest me anymore. I try to stay as far away from politics as possible.”
At one point in the discussion, Cole opens up about his political attitudes and reveals he didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. "Because Hillary Clinton wasn’t somebody that was motivating me to go vote,” he said. “If it was Bernie Sanders, I would’ve showed up and voted. I would’ve been the first one in line, no bullshit. No disrespect to Hillary."
With Trump, Cole takes pleasure in knowing that people can see all the worst parts of American politics in plain sight. “I love that America gets to see the truth,” he asserted. “All the shit we see right now would’ve still existed; it would’ve just been quiet. And I prefer this shit to be out loud. I prefer an honest America. I prefer the world seeing that, yes, we’re a country that is dumb enough -- no disrespect -- [that] we got duped into electing Donald Trump."