J. Cole won his first Grammy in 2020, when 21 Savage's "A Lot" took home the award for Best Rap Song. While the win "was so important" to him, he admits it would have had more meaning had he "won it early on."
"It would have validated all of those feelings I had for it," he said during his sit-down on the ESPN podcast Lead by Example. "After time, it becomes clear that it's like, oh wait a minute, those things weren't for you. And then when it actually came, it was like, I'm not in love with this thing anymore."
Elsewhere in the interview, Cole discussed why he pursued music over basketball, his wish that his children "learn the lessons that could lead [them] to peace quicker" than he found it, and the smoking habit he picked up at six years old.
According to the rapper, he'd started smoking cigarettes to fit in with the older kids in the neighborhood.
"I was young and fearless and trying to be cool. So, it was like, 'Oh, y'all smoking. Let me see that,'" he said. Eventually, his brother found out and told his mother, who was "crushed" to hear the news.
“This was literally a life-changing moment,” Cole said. “When she smelled cigarettes on my breath, her face was like, it was heartbroken, it was disbelief, it was like crushed. I remember the look on her face. She was like, ‘You have been smoking.'”
It was then that Cole said he realized "that my actions can hurt someone else. Things that I do, my decisions, can hurt somebody else.”
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