The 30 Best J. Cole Quotes

The 38-year-old German-born American rapper and producer Jermaine Lamarr Cole—better known as J. Cole—is considered one of the best rappers of this generation.

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The positive-thinking, inspirational lyricist, who was born on a military base and later raised in North Carolina, earned praise from his debut mixtape, The Come Up, which dropped in 2007. He signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label in 2009 and released The Warm Up that same year and Friday Night Lights in 2010.

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Since, he’s released six albums that hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200, including his latest, The Off-Season, which dropped in May of 2021. He’s also produced work for artists like Kendrick Lamar and Janet Jackson. He won a Grammy for Best Rap Song and earned platinum certification for a handful of his LPs.

In other words, he’s major.

But what does Cole have to say about life and love, his career and craft, and the world at large outside of his prolific musical output? Here are the 30 best J. Cole quotes.

1. “I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think something’s not good enough, and I won’t stop until I feel like I’ve made it. I’m never satisfied.”

2. “Anything I do, I want to do it well.”

3. “I’m here to spread a message of hope. Follow your heart. Don’t follow what you’ve been told you’re supposed to do.”

4. “I always feel like it’s two key ingredients when it comes to following your dreams, making something happen that the average person deems difficult. If you truly believe it, that’s step one. Step two, is, you know, the hard work that goes along with it.”

5. “You can’t reverse fame. You can lose all the money, but you’ll never lose people knowing you.”

6. “I do put a lot of God in my music, but not because I’m super religious. There are a lot of demons in my music, too. I acknowledge both.”

7. “I was a class clown. At 12, I was definitely clowning. I was making all the jokes. But I was smart, so the teachers didn’t know what to do with me.”

8. “One day, I’ll be listening to a bunch of Ray Charles, the next day it’s nothing but Red Hot Chili Peppers. The next day it might be Tupac all day.”

9. “I had a lot of resistance, and not just to fame. I was always conscious of not changing.”

10. “I want people to follow their dreams, yes… but I’m not interested in telling young Black kids how to be rappers… I want to show them that there’s so many other paths you can take, besides a rapper or basketball player.”

11. “I’m half-Black, half-white, so I basically put it like this: I can fit in anywhere. That’s why I write so many stories from so many different perspectives because I’ve seen so many.”

12. “Rhyme patterns are nothing without meanings to the words. A lot of rappers can do those flows, but the raps aren’t really about anything—which is cool sometimes, but to have the flow and the message is one of my favorite things.”

13. “The thing about being an artist today is you get to develop right in front of people’s eyes before you even put out an album.”

14. “I had a rat-tail when I was younger. I had this nice Bobby Brown fade, with a rat tail that was long enough to wrap around my face. I used to chew on the end and bite it.”

15. “I’m not gonna be bad at anything, and I want to actually be the best at anything I’m doing. So if I’m playing basketball, if I’m taking the SATs, like, there’s a competitive spirit behind it. With production, it’s the same thing.”

16. “There was the time I bought three cars in the span of three or four weeks. It was crazy; it wasn’t greedy. It was mine, my girl’s, and my mom’s. I got Benzes for my ladies. But I felt crazy. You have to understand I come from a world where we’re very modest. But that’s not greedy. That’s nice, right?”

17. “I actually started off majoring in computer science, but I knew right away I wasn’t going to stay with it. It was because I had this one professor who was the loneliest, saddest man I’ve ever known. He was a programmer, and I knew that I didn’t want to do whatever he did. So after that, I switched to Communications.”

18. “When you’re headlining, people are paying to come see you specifically. It’s a different kind of pressure because you’ve got to deliver. You’ve got to give these people what they paid for. It’s a different mind state, a different type of mentality, but it’s honestly a pretty good problem to have, you know?”

19. “I started playing violin in the 5th grade. They had a program in school where you could get out of class to go play instruments. So I raised my hand, left out of class, me and a bunch of my homeboys, just to get out of class for that day. They asked what instrument you wanted to play and I picked the violin.”

20. “I met Will Smith twice. I didn’t talk to him for too long but I was trying to let him know that my age group grew up watching him—he was the coolest guy on television and the coolest guy in movies.”

21. “There’s been people who’ve rapped and produced—like Kanye—but I don’t feel like on the rapping side there’s ever been a producer who can rap as good as I think I can rap.”

22. “I feel like this: Whatever is in your path and in your heart, you need to do.”

23. “I’ve always been an underdog. I feel like I beat the odds.”

24. “If I was to go to sleep before midnight, I would feel weird about myself, like I wasted a day. My most productive hours are between midnight and five.”

25. “As much as it might look like, to someone else, that I’m successful, I never feel like I’m anywhere. The further I go, I still feel equally further from my eventual goal. Because as I grow, I get more goals. I’m never content.”

26. “I’m a super-duper over-analyzer. You mix that with self-doubt and pressure, and that’s never healthy.”

27. “I now possess the tools as a producer and a songwriter to really just go out and make smashes all day long. I could make an album full of smash records that got pop appeal. But my heart is in hip-hop. My heart is in telling stories. And it’s like therapy for me.”

28. “I struggled with being a broke college graduate, and while all my friends were getting career jobs, I was working horrible part-time jobs. That’s why now, even when I get tired, I think, ‘This is what I asked for.'”

29. “College isn’t in everyone’s hearts. I am living proof, though, that school doesn’t mess up your plans. It gives you more experiences to write about.”

30. “People think because I’ve got some success, I’ve made it, but in my eyes, it’s like, ‘How long has Jay Z been in the business? How many albums has he got?’ Not that I’m trying to be Jay Z, but I am trying to be around for a long time.”

Photo by Josh Brasted/FilmMagic

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