JAY-Z, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole & More Share Secrets For Greatness
J. Cole interviews are a rarity these days. Fresh off Dreamville’s recent Creed III: The Soundtrack display, J. Cole sat down for a rare public conversation. However, it was not promoting the compilation that includes a new Cole solo song to a vintage, recycled Dr. Dre beat. Instead, Jermaine sat with Golden State Warriors general manager Bobby Myers for his ESPN interview series, Lead By Example.
In the hour-long interview, J. Cole retraces his Hip-Hop journey (as well as his sports ambitions) and offers secrets about how he has achieved greatness. Highlights include jewels such as, “See yourself as high as you can possibly see yourself. So if someone wants to be an NBA player, to me, that’s not enough. There’s a wide range of NBA players. There’s an NBA player that never saw the floor [but] he was in the NBA. [At the same time], LeBron James is in the NBA. Who do you see yourself as? And, there’s no right or wrong answer. Clarify and define your vision for yourself in the highest possible position you can see it. Do you want to be a 12-time all-star? Do you want to be a league MVP? Be as specific and see yourself as high as you possibly can. That’s your first job, is to see it as high as you can see it. Be delusional, even. Right at the apex of what your mind believes is possible, push past that even a little bit, and define it.”
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Cole says that at the 42:00 mark and adds, “[Lesson] #2 is believe it. See it all that time and believe it and whatever you gotta do to protect that belief.” He details, “My version of protecting that belief was I wasn’t sharing it.” Cole protected those plans, “I’m not even going to give my own mother the chance to try and bring me back down to reality. It’s not gonna happen.” The nugget of wisdom is “[Lesson] three is work towards it. You have to do the work. And, because you love it, it’s not always going to feel like work but sometimes it is.” Throughout the conversation, J. Cole expounds on applying his keys to success. The German-born, North Carolina-raised MC/producer opted to attend St. Johns University to be close to New York City’s music industry. He says that he did not feel like a champion at his craft until his third album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. This is just one example of many throughout the sit-down.
J. Cole’s interview prompted Ambrosia For Heads to unpack these pieces of personal wisdom from other Hip-Hop artists at the top of their game. Over a decade ago, AFH launched a video series GRIT, and interviewed Kendrick Lamar, Rapsody, Big K.R.I.T., and Ab-Soul (these interviews are a playlist at the bottom of this article). These three artists have on to achieve great things, including literary awards, releasing benchmark albums, and becoming top-of-class artists far beyond one genre.
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On episode #103 of the What’s The Headline podcast (embedded above in video and audio), the AFH team unpacks some of these jewels, adding in one of Hip-Hop’s most respected and influential superstars, JAY-Z, in, with some aggregated gems there as well.
For instance, back in 2012, Kendrick Lamar said, “When you can still feel good about what you’re doing without really caring what everyone else is thinking, they’ll respect you as a leader more. Then, they’ll listen. Then, when they find out you’re really talking about something, it’s over.” This comment predated the release good kid, m.A.A.d city. Ahead of his own major label debut, Big K.R.I.T. offered, “If you believe in yourself and people believe in you, if it’s meant for you, it’s going to happen.” In her episode of GRIT, Rapsody spoke about using 9th Wonder’s work ethic for motivation. “9th [Wonder] has all these accolades. He has a Grammy. He’s worked with so many legends, and he still is up till 3-in-the-morning. So, I need to stay longer than he does, because I’m a new artist. So, if he’s in the game and he’s doing that, I need to work 10 times harder.” Since then, Rap’ has been Grammy-nominated for her art. Ab-Soul urged new artists to have patience, sometimes even longer than a decade. “Give it about 10, 13 years. If you got that time to give, and go hard every minute, and you think about it every minute? It will give back to you what you give it. I promise.”
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In his Fade To Black documentary, JAY-Z warned against dream shatterers. It echoes a point that J. Cole made this week. “You have to have such a strong belief in yourself, that you can quiet all the outside noise,” Hov said at the time. “There are people who are projecting their fears and their shortcomings and their failures on you. And, you have to be very careful with that. People telling you ‘you can’t do that.’ ‘Why can’t I?’”
Other discussion points include Tupac Shakur’s positive affects on the culture of Death Row Records—following a point Kurupt recently made, DJ Premier’s comprehensive breakdown of how Biggie Smalls’ “The Ten Crack Commandments” came to be, and J.I.D.’s recollection of being starstruck to meet JAY-Z. There is also a chat about new music.
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With this latest podcast episode, Ambrosia For Heads is proud to announce that we have been ranked at #9 on Feedspot‘s list of the “100 Best Hip Hop Blogs & Websites (Rap Blogs)” list.
AFH readers can catch regular discussions about the culture on our What’s The Headline. The podcast also features interviews with Rapper Big Pooh, Cormega, Meyhem Lauren & Daringer, Diamond D, AZ, Blu & Mickey Factz, Joell Ortiz, Kurupt, Evidence, Skyzoo, Pharoahe Monch, Prince Paul & Don Newkirk, Statik Selektah, Lyric Jones, The LOX, MC Eiht, Havoc, Duckwrth, photographer T. Eric Monroe, and Lord Finesse.
#BonusBeat: A playlist of AFH‘s GRIT episodes, including those from Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T., Rapsody, and Ab-Soul: