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Sinner Man: J. Cole on Behaving Badly

Jermaine Cole

Kanye West and his new album Yeezus have understandably ruled the headlines this week, but for much of this year the airwaves have been dominated, at least in part, by another rapper who released an album on June 18: J. Cole. Despite some overt attempts on Cole’s new Born Sinner, the North Carolina MC is not and never will be Kanye, but his single “Power Trip” is one of the best and biggest rap hits of the year, continuing a string of successful releases. The 28-year-old infamously bumped the due date of his album up a week to “compete” with Yeezus, but if initial projections are any indication he’ll come closer to clipping Kanye than many anticipated.

A few days after dropping another single, “Crooked Smile,” which features the two surviving members of TLC, Cole spoke with SPIN from the green room as he prepared to perform at a small iHeartRadio concert in New York City. It was there, in honor of Born Sinner, that the North Carolina-bred star shared some stories about his experiences with the seven deadly sins.

“The other day I had to stunt on this dude. This was at Summer Jam two days ago. When I see a lot people, I may not [remember] where I know them from but I know their face. [I was] talking to 2 Chainz, and when I step away I see this dude, and I recognize his face. I’ve been seeing a lot of people that day so I’m like ‘What’s up, man?’ and ask him what he’s doing. And he was telling me he’s working with someone I know. So I think, ‘Okay, that’s what’s up.’ Then my friend was like, ‘You’re still over at MTV?’ And he was like, ‘No, I’m not with them anymore.’ And I was like ‘What? Oh, you were on the MTV [Hottest MCs] roundtable.’ And he was like ‘Yeah!’ I was in the middle of a five-minute conversation when I found out he was on that roundtable. I remember specifically [during the roundtable] he was shitting on me. I was mad I even gave him five minutes of my time.”

“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, 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?”

“There was a time right after I graduated college … I always felt like the record deal was going to come, so I didn’t get a job. All my friends were getting nine-to-fives and getting 40 grand a year. I was just at the crib, waiting on my record deal, which was definitely not coming if I didn’t get the fuck up and do something about it. I didn’t do shit but party and eat.”

“My most prideful moment probably happened in the moment I had the number one album in the country [2011’s Cole World: The Sideline Story]. I felt like I shitted on a lot of people’s expectations at that moment. I was doing an album-signing when I found out the first day’s sales were 115,000. I knew right off the bat it was going to be a big week. It was way more than I or the label thought. They thought maybe 60,000 copies.”

“Some of my first moments of lust [are from] like sixth grade. Andrea Jackson: she was crazy, like a ninth grader. Her body was like a ninth grader and we were in sixth grade. Every day in class we would just like … she really helped me get through puberty, man. I would just dream about her. I would come to school and get my little feels on.”

“There’s this dude in high school, he was like the best dresser, all the girls were in love with him, star football player. He had it all, man. This girl, I had a super huge crush on her, she was way ahead of me, you know what I mean? This dude had it made. I wanted his life. He had the lead role out of, like, a Keyshia Cole video. All the girls wanted him. He was a G. I wanted to be on his level.”

“Some fuckin’ meatballs, man. Last week, like Friday, there’s the meatball shop on the Lower East Side. I got two fuckin’ sandwiches and one is more than enough. But they were incredible. It was right by my barber shop.”