J. Cole’s affinity for Nas has been well-documented. He and the Queensbridge rapper collaborated on Cole’s “Let Nas Down” track from the Roc Nation rapper’s latest album Born Sinner, and during a speech at the 2014 VIBE Impact Awards, Jermaine once again explained why Nas was such an integral part of his musical make-up.
Cole said that when he heard the song “I Gave You Power” for the first time from Nas’ second studio album, It Was Written, he gave up the preconceived bias toward West Coast rap and became a Nas fan forever.
“A lightbulb went off and I knew right there that, ‘Oh my God. This nigga’s the greatest,'” J. Cole said when recalling the first time his older cousin played Nas for him in the car. “All the fronting I was doing just came to a cease and I knew that this was something I was so thankful to be aware of.”
The North Carolina native also talked about Nas’ influence, specifically on his musical career.
“As a rapper, there’s very few greats that I study and I still continue to study and Nas is obviously one of them,” J. Cole said. “I really had his lyrics printed on my wall… I would print these joints out and I would hang them up on my wall and if you’d walk in my room [you’d be like], ‘What is wrong with this kid?’ I’d just be there standing and reading the lyrics. I really wanted to know what it was like to be that good. I was rapping at the time and it was my goal to be that good.”
Watch part of J. Cole’s speech below: