Coming off the steam of his highly anticipated sixth studio album, J. Cole says he’s had a change of heart when it comes to competition.

During the latest episode of Kevin Durant’s The ETCS podcast, co-host Eddie Gonzalez asked Cole about his relationship with other “top dogs” like Drake and Kendrick Lamar—rappers to whom he’s frequently compared. The Dreamville boss admitted that at the beginning of his career he was all about the competition and never tried to connect with his contemporaries because he felt as though they were all fighting for the top spot. But Cole says his time in the business has completely changed his perspective.

“I would assume it’s just like basketball in a sense. It’s like, man, these are the guys that push you, and you gotta push them. You know what I mean?” he said. “… I’ve never been a reach-out [person], especially because when there’s competition involved … It’s almost like working out together. I guess in the NBA, in the past, that was unheard of. Like, ‘Why would I work out with this n***a? … I’m trying to destroy this n***a.’ That was kind of my mentality early on. But as I’ve gotten older, I realize … no one is truly my peer or can relate to what’s going on in my life better than these people right here—just in terms of whatever pressures there might be … nobody can really relate to that like these dudes, and I really genuinely fuck with these dudes.”

Cole went on to say that he is now trying to “strip competition” from his approach to music, and is now more interested in forming relationships with those who some consider to be his rivals.

“I also see a time when I’m not doing this. That seems very realistic to me,” he said. “And in the time when I’m not doing this, I don’t wanna be like, ‘Damn, we never kicked it, we never really did nothing.’”

Elsewhere in the interview, Cole speaks about his newly inked deal to play for the Rwanda Patriots BBC in the inaugural season of the Basketball Africa League. The 36-year-old rapper admits the decision seems “crazy” and “ridiculous,” but it was always his dream to play professional ball.

“I gotta protect my goal … When I was kid I wanted to play in the NBA, not just professional, but be in the NBA,” he explained. “But I was delusional. I didn’t have any reason to think that I would be in the NBA, but I definitely thought I was good enough … I was the best player on my rec league team, but I was gettin’, like, eight points. I wasn’t even killin’ … I was that delusional kid. I didn’t have a male figure around to smack some sense into me … It’s almost like I had blinders on … and I kept that delusion going.”

Cole said that it wasn’t until his late teens that he realized he had little to no change to fulfilling his NBA dreams, as he was convinced high school basketball was “the end of the road.” But during his sophomore year at St. John’s University in New York City, he decided to give the sport another chance and ended up trying out for the school’s team.

“I just felt like, ‘Yo, I’m way better than I was in high school. I’m way more confident’ … I was just playing great,” he said about his tryout. “They called 10 guys back the next day for the second round of tryouts … I was one of the guys they called back, and I was, like, ‘Yo, if I go tomorrow to this tryout, I’m gonna make this team. And the reality of that possibility hit me.”

Cole said he was turned off by the idea after seeing how much time and energy other student athletes had to put into basketball—and he simply wasn’t willing to sacrifice his music aspirations for the sport.

“I was, like, ‘Yo, you came up here to do what? You came up here for music … to find your way into this game,’” he recalled. “‘If you go walk onto this team, you know yourself, it’s gonna reignite this basketball dream.’”

Although he ultimately chose not to go to the second round of tryouts, Cole never let his hoop dreams slip away. Once he signed a record deal at age 24, he secretly told himself that he had three years to “blow up,” and would then dedicate the rest of his 20s to achieve his basketball goal.

“If you blow up in enough time and put in work, you may be able to do this,” he continued. “… I’m a ridiculous dreamer … But I didn’t blow up in time. It took me way longer than that, you know what I mean? So, like, here I am in my mid-30s in Rwanda. But, to me, it’s perfect.”

Cole also spoke about his newly released studio album, The Off-Season, as well as his rumored retirement. He told the hosts he wasn’t setting up an “exit path,” but looks “forward to the day when it stops” so he can pursue his other interests.

“I’m so obsessive over it,” he said about his music career. “When I set a goal, I give it so much … It’s exhausting, ’cause I also have other things I want to do in my life. Those things never have a chance. These are things that I have to be bad at and become good at it. I would never have the time if I did music, on a J. Cole-career level, if I chase that career or kept feeding that career for the next five, 10 years, I would never have time to do all this other shit I wanna do … I’m setting up a peace path, to where if I did feel like being done, I’m at peace with it.”

He continued: “Maybe I don’t [step away from music], but if I did, I know I checked all these personal boxes for myself and now I give myself permission to go do some other shit. In terms of what’s next for me, music-wise, there are still a couple of things I want to finish … I think I’ll always be involved [in music].”

Check out the chat in full above and listen to the episode via Spotify now.