J. Cole has long held a reputation as one of his generation’s foremost rap lyricists. In a recent interview with Kevin Hart, he revealed some of the influences that he used to develop the style that earned him that reputation. The list includes some unsurprising, obvious picks like Tupac, Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem, André 3000, and Lil Wayne, who he calls “the big bullets,” but then he also name-checks some left-field acts such as Royce Da 5’9 and Canibus.
J. Cole has gotten a lot of love from some of those names; early in his career, he signed with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and got Nas’ attention with one of the songs on his second album. In 2018, he even got to collaborate with Royce Da 5’9 on the song “Boblo Boat.” He’s also gotten a lot of love from his peers and predecessors lately, as well. Rap legend Big Daddy Kane called J. Cole his hero in a recent interview, while Drake brought out J. Cole for a surprise performance during a stop on his It’s All A Blur Tour.
Cole has since paid that love forward. Elsewhere in his Kevin Hart interview, he declared, “I hate to say it almost ’cause it sounds like pandering, but I really do think, like, man, there’s a lot of fire female rappers. I feel like they’re doing some of the most exciting — commercially, they’re doing some of the most exciting [things]. They’re giving us a lot of fire moments. I feel like that’s something that wasn’t around when we was growing up. […] You always had one. Lil’ Kim, Foxy, Eve. There was always one, but there could never be more than one, almost, it felt like. Now, it’s like, bro, we getting moments and moments and moments. I think that’s hard.”
You can watch the full interview with Hart on Peacock.