Years before J. Cole was smoking up the rap charts, he was a 6-year-old taking drags on a cigarette.
The 38-year-old “No Role Modelz” rapper, whose real name is Jermaine Cole, spoke about his single mother, Kay, being disappointed to learn about his habit during Tuesday’s episode of the “Lead by Example With Bob Myers” podcast.
“At 6 years old, I was smoking cigarettes regularly around the neighborhood,” Cole, who grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, told Myers, the president and general manager of the Golden State Warriors.
“I was always hanging around the older kids in the neighborhood that [my older brother, Zach] was hanging around and they were smoking. And I was young and fearless and trying to be cool.”
“So, it was like, ‘Oh, y’all smoking. Let me see that.’ And, of course, we’re all out there [with] young parents, long leashes. Not that [my mom] knew I was doing this,” Cole continued.
He explained that the 10-year-old neighbor kids thought it was “funny” that the youngster smoked — until his brother caught him asking for a cig and ran home to tell their mom.
“She was like, ‘Say something,’” Cole recalled of the confrontation with his mom, an Army veteran. “I was like, ‘What do you mean, say something?’ and when I said it she bent down, she smelled the cigarette smoke on my breath.
“The reason why I think that was a life-changing moment where after that I didn’t need much correction — I became a self-corrector — is because that was the first time I became aware that, ‘Oh, my actions can hurt someone else,’” he explained.
The Grammy winner also took up pro basketball overseas with the Rwanda Patriots in the Basketball Africa League in 2021.
Last year, he played guard for Canada’s Scarborough Shooting Stars; Cole previously played high school basketball in North Carolina.
“I loved listening to music, pretending that I’m Bobby Brown or pretending that I’m Michael Jackson,” Cole claimed when Myers asked whether music or basketball was his “first love.”
“I just remember the love of listening to music then basketball came years later because everybody around the neighborhood is playing basketball, but of course — you’re a kid —everybody’s going to the NBA in their mind,” he said. “That was me.”