J. Cole is hip-hop's Willy Wonka. For years he trapped himself inside his factory, producing incredible art but stopped short of letting people get a glimpse of his innovative creative process. In 2019, Cole finally opened his gates to welcome outsiders into his world for a 10-day recording session that would become Revenge of the Dreamers III. Yet leading up to this, fans were confused by Cole's unwillingness to share his space with others. This moved him to explain that it was more about people damaging his ego than stealing an everlasting gobstopper.
On Monday, The Player's Tribune published an editorial penned by Cole himself. In the piece, the rapper explained that his intensely competitive nature combined with his inner lack of confidence that stopped him from making friends in the music industry.
"The first thing that rushed to my mind was the missed opportunity of community," Cole wrote when describing a conversation he had with himself. "A combination of a competitive ego mixed with a deep fear of rejection had kept me from collaborating with peers that I respected all of these years and prevented me from building real friendships with them. I had spent my career closed off. I didn’t want that to be the case forever."
Cole took several steps to rectify this. Not only did he open up Dreamville's Atlanta base to any rapper that wanted to appear on Revenge of the Dreamers III, but he also made several guest appearances on songs by Gang Starr and Young Thug. He also confirmed that he is the father of two sons.
"Four years have passed. In that time I’ve been blessed with two sons, learned the delicate art of balance between parenthood and career, had the pleasure of working with a ton of talented artists as a featured rapper, spent 10 magical days recording a Dreamville album in Atlanta, and put a lot of time and energy into sharpening my sword and growing as an artist," Cole wrote.
Throughout the piece, Cole touches on seemingly delusional goals that he set for himself. This included his desire to become one of the greatest rappers to touch a microphone. After the success of 2014 Forest Hills Drive, the 31-year-old Cole felt like he arrived as a rapper. He had little motivation to continue writing or creating music. This forced him to return to "Mohammad’s crib" where he lived before signing his deal with Jay-Z. Here, Cole challenged himself to finish 4 Your Eyez Only. It also reignited a hunger that set the stage for his upcoming project, The Fall Off.
"For the next three months I would wake up in that old, familiar room, putting myself through morning writing drills before heading off to Electric Lady Studios with a short term plan to finish the 4 Your Eyez Only album before the arrival of my first child," Cole wrote before hinting that The Fall Off could be his last album.
"A long term plan of becoming the best rapper I could possibly be before hanging up my jersey, leaving nothing on the table when all was said and done," he wrote. "The seeds for The Fall Off were planted."
While touching on his "delusional" rap goals, he also reminded listeners that hip-hop is closely related to sports by expounding on his own hoop dream. J. Cole starts off the article by recalling a time when he had to choose between rap and becoming a college walk-on. After careful contemplation though, his rap inspirations outweighed his potentially lackluster basketball career. Yet, this didn't stop basketball from creeping back into his life. As he searched for inspiration prior to returning to Mohammad’s crib, Cole contemplated rekindling his NBA passions. But once his fire to rap was relit, it became clear that "basketball would have to wait one more time."
You can read the full article, titled "The Audacity," here.