J. Cole Says His Early Music Was Him "Literally Just Sounding Like Eminem & Nas"

Every rapper begins by mimicking their heroes, and Jermaine reveals that at first he was a carbon copy of Marshall and Nasir.
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Eminem’s 2013 Rapture Tour through Australia brought along Action Bronson, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, a lineup most could only witness in their wet dreams. My envy was Hulk green once I found out he would be taking those three on the road. During their time in Australia, a journalist was able to sit and speak with both Kendrick and Cole. The interview may be old, but hearing these two together is very rare, and there were some timeless gems dropped.

The interview is short, only lasting a little over four minutes. Kendrick spends his time discussing the day he went to the studio and recorded “Love Game,” revealing Eminem kicked everyone else out of the studio when they recorded. Kendrick believes Em was testing him, making sure he could really write without the assistance of others.

But while J. Cole didn’t have a specific Eminem story to share, it was a quote from Jermaine that grabbed me most as he briefly mentioned the first song he ever wrote was a mixture of Nas and Eminem. This was before Jermaine was J. Cole, when he was rapping as The Therapist, just a teenager, tracing his influences in search of his own voice.  

I’m such a huge Eminem fan. Especially from his first three albums, I was like all the way in. I’m still all the way in cause he’s still amazing…My first song, I ever made, was literally just sounding like Eminem and Nas. If you go listen you will hear both influences and I feel like when you start rapping at the beginning, you really just take all your influences and you just rap like them and eventually you become who you are from others’ influences and Eminem was a main ingredient. 

What’s interesting about J. Cole openly admitting to mimicking Nas and Eminem is that it echoes what Eminem said when he was criticized for sounding too much like Nas and AZ on his Infinite album. Em decided that he had to focus on finding his own voice, developing a style that couldn’t be compared to any artist, and that process is obviously one that transcends any particular artist or time period. Similarly, J. Cole’s style naturally evolved, finding his voice in a melting pot of other voices that he drew from. It’s a testament to how influence can come full circle.

What J. Cole and Eminem both prove is that originality isn’t found at the beginning of your journey. In some way, shape, or form, every artist has an influence that helps them find their sense of style. Young Thug is here because of Lil Wayne, Lil Wayne is here because of Jay Z, Jay Z is here because of Big Daddy Kane and the evolutionary chart continues on and on. Imitation can be the beginning of an original sound, style, or voice, but only if given the chance to develop. Who knows where Desiigner will take the sound that is strongly influenced by Future and what he will morph it into? You have to give a young man time to rumble.

We all start as an imprint of someone else, it’s how you find yourself from there that matters.

Yoh, Sir Yohcious L. Leftfoot, aka @Yoh31

Photo Credits: J. Cole (Instagram), Eminem (Instagram) and Nas (Instagram)

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