J. Cole Speaks on How Smoking Cigarettes at 6 Led to a Life-Changing Moment

In an extensive interview, J. Cole sat down with Warriors GM Bob Myers to talk about leading by example, sharing stories about his childhood and career.

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J. Cole isn’t perfect and has learned that his actions can hurt people.

Cole shared a personal anecdote about the time he started smoking cigarettes regularly at six years old during a sit-down with Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers on ESPN. At around the four-minute mark above, Cole answered Myers’ question on what was the stupidest thing he did in his childhood.

“At six years old, I was smoking cigarettes regularly around the neighborhood. … I was always hanging around the older kids in the neighborhood that [my older brother] was hanging around, and they were smoking," Cole said. “And I was young and fearless and trying to be cool. So, it was like, ‘Oh, y’all smoking. Like, let me see that.’ And, of course, we’re all out there kinda [with] young parents, with long leashes.”

“To them, it’s funny. They’re 10 themselves. So, it’s funny for them. Nobody’s really worried about me,” Cole went on. “Nobody is like, ‘Hey! Don’t do that.’ They’re 10 and smoking cigarettes.”

He said he smoked at that age for two or three weeks. He was at a house where it was happening and his brother overheard him ask one of their friends if he had any cigarettes. Cole’s brother, perplexed by what he heard, walked home to tell their mom. Cole scoffed at the thought of getting in trouble.

“20 minutes later, my brother walks back to the backyard where we was at. ‘Jermaine!’ He’s like, ‘Mom wants to see you.’ So I’m walking home, no fear. No worry at all,” he continued, coming to the conclusion of this pivotal moment. “I saw her face. When she smelled cigarettes on my breath, her face was heartbroken. It was disbelief. It was like, crushed. I remember the look on her face and she was like, ‘You have been smoking.’ It like hit her.”

“The reason why I think that was a life-changing moment, where after that I didn’t need much correction—I became a self-corrector—is because that was the first time I became aware that, ‘Oh, my actions can hurt someone else,’” he said.

Elsewhere in the interview, Cole talked about finding his path and validation in his rap career, sharing he used to take lack of positive criticism for his music seriously.

“I remember really being like, ‘Why am not on that list right there?’” he said. “‘They only put one of those songs on there, but this song is better than that song and that song is only No. 31. They are trying to say that these songs are better than that?’ This wasn’t stuff I was saying out loud. This was internal conversations that were damaging.”

Wrapping the conversation up, Cole said of the life he wishes for his kids, “I think my wish and my hope is I just want you to cut down the time that it took me—the thing that I learned at 30, I hope you can learn at 15 or 16. I just want you to be able to learn the lessons that can lead you to peace quicker.”

You can watch the entire interview above.

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