Before J. Cole began showing off his skills in rap competitions, he was smoking cigarettes at a young age.
The North Carolina native shared the shocking confession during a sitdown with the host of the ESPN podcast “Lead By Example with Bob Myers” on March 21.
Nearly four minutes into the interview, Myers asked the “Power Trip” rapper about the stupidest thing he ever did, and he replied that it was smoking as a child.
“At 6 years old, I was smoking cigarettes,” he said. “Regularly around the neighborhood. Just being around the neighborhood,” Cole said, noting that his brother was four years older than him.
“I was always hanging around the older kids in the neighborhood that he was hanging around, and they were smoking. And I was young and fearless and trying to be cool, so it was like, it was, ‘Oh, y’all smokin’? Let me see that.'”
The Dreamville CEO went on to say they were all children of young parents with long leashes but his mother had no idea he was smoking cigarettes. He said after two or three weeks, his brother overheard him asking someone for a cigarette and told him to shut up, but he tried to play it off.
“He don’t know. Tell ’em,” said Cole to an individual off-camera. “Don’t I be smokin’?”
He said that his brother told him he was going to tell their mother, but the “Crooked Smile” artist planned to lie about it when confronted. He said his mother told him to say something as she bent over to smell his breath.
“This was the life-changing moment right here, because I saw her face,” Cole recalled. “When she smelled cigarettes on my breath, her face … it was like, heartbroken. It was disbelief. It was crushed. I remember the look on her face.”
The 38-year-old added that was disciplined for smoking but he doesn’t remember it, he only remembers the heartbroken look on his mother’s face. He said at that age that he realized his actions could hurt others.
Cole also clarified that even though he was born in Germany, his mother is not German and Is a Michigan native. His military dad was stationed in Germany at the time. The recording artist also spoke on fame and noted that he is sometimes jealous of people with regular lives.
“I’m envious of people who don’t have a strong desire or strong vision and don’t have something,” he explained. “They have a peaceful life and an enjoyable life and it’s like, ‘I go to work, I like my job, I like my salary, I’m not stupid rich but I love my family. I come home — life is amazing.’
He continued, “And they live their life like that, and I think that is just as valid. … It’s a blessing to be satisfied, to be content.”
After five platinum albums and one Grammy win, Cole has hinted at retiring from the music industry. In May 2021, the father of two stepped out on faith to pursue one of his other dreams, which led to signing a contract with the Basketball Africa League to play for the Rwanda Patriots. Shortly afterWard, he released his sixth album, “The Off-Season.”
Nearly one year later, Cole signed another contract to play for the Scarborough Shooting Stars in Canada. It was short-lived as he returned to music, assisting artists signed to his label, Dreamville Records. He most recently executive produced the “Creed III” soundtrack, but there is no word on his next album as of yet.