During the two-hour conversation, the North Carolina MC spoke at length about the inspiration behind his new album 2014 Forest Hills Drive, staying out of Drake’s lane, protesting in Ferguson, and wanting to sign Kendrick Lamar.
Cole was first introduced to the Compton MC in 2010 before either rapper had released their debut albums. “I met Kendrick at a time when all I had out was The Warm Up, nobody knew who he was, he didn’t have a deal,” he explained. “He was signed to Top [Dawg]—I didn’t know he was signed to Top.”
But he immediately knew that K-Dot was a star. “I actually wanted to sign him, but I didn’t have my business right. I didn’t know he was with Top [Dawg],” said Cole. “But in my mind, he was the first person I ever found. I remember tellin’ everybody like, ‘Yo, I’m tryna sign this kid. Like yo, this ni**a’s nasty!'”
He went to a release party for an L.A. group named UNI and saw Kendrick perform for the first time. “I’m lookin at this short, dark-skinned kid like, ‘Yo, who is this kid?’ and then he gets on the mic and murders. I’m a rapper’s rapper and I’m not easily impressed, and when I heard him I was instantly [impressed].”
He approached Kendrick to give him props and K-Dot reminded him that they had met before at the 2010 XXL Freshmen shoot with Jay Rock. “He was like, ‘I was asking [the editors] to give me your spot.’ But they didn’t know who he was.”
Later that night, Kendrick emailed him two songs, “Pu**y and Patron” and “Cut You Off.” “I was like, ‘Yo, I’m f**kin’ with this ni**a. I wanna sign this ni**a!’ From there, I felt compelled to always give him any jewels I could.”
He even helped put Dr. Dre on to him. “When I was in the studio with Dre I had to tell Dre like, ‘Yo, you ain’t never heard of Kendrick?’ And he was like, ‘Oh, Kendrick? Yeah, I’m supposed to be meeting with him soon.’ And I was giving him the crazy co-sign like, ‘You gotta fuck with Kendrick.'”
And the rest is history. “This ni**a blew the f**k up and reached levels that I hadn’t reached. I didn’t know the ni**a would go platinum before me, but I definitely saw it for him. I believed and believe.”
During the interview, Cole also touched base on his infamous run-in with Diddy at a VMA after-party in August 2013. “It was just a quick disagreement that turned into something,” said Cole. “Never been a beef, never is a beef. It was too quick to really be considered a fight.”
Listen to the full two-hour interview below.