36 year old J. Cole discussed leaving the rap game for good, with basketball mag, Slam Magazine.
Today, Slam Magazine interviewed J. Cole to discuss his next studio album, The Off-Season which is due out on May 14. The LP is supposed to be a precursor to The Fall Off, an album Cole has been teasing since 2018. While speaking with the magazine, Cole confirmed that he may eventually retire from the hip-hop world, but added that he would never announce that it’s the end of his career.
Just know this was years in the making.— J. Cole (@JColeNC) May 4, 2021
My new album The Off-Season available everywhere 5/14 pic.twitter.com/aBw4po8fvx
Cole reveals that the thought first entered his mind in 2014, following the success of his third studio album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. He said, “After  Forest Hills Drive, [that] was the first time I ever got that feeling. It was after I got off tour and I could breathe. I was like, ‘Damn.’ For the first time, I felt comfortable in a good way. I allowed myself to just chill, watch TV, play video games. Simple s— that n—as do, but I don’t do. S— that before I wouldn’t allow myself to do, because it was like, ‘Yo, I got way bigger s— to do, way bigger fish to fry.’ I wouldn’t even give myself the pass of watching a whole [TV] series.” After Cole allowed himself that “me-time,” he thought, “Yo, you kind of got to where you always wanted to be. Now what?”
He remembers flat out asking himself, “’Do you want to stop right here?’ And when I asked that question it was strictly from an ability standpoint, a fulfillment standpoint. Like, ‘Did you max out your skill? Did you max out your abilities or did you leave s— on the table in terms of pushing yourself?’ And at that time, I remember feeling like, ‘No, no you didn’t. The truth was very clear.’”
Born Jermaine Lamarr Cole, the rapper recalls attempting to write again but when he tried to pick up the pen or make a beat, “the s— would be uninspired.” He continued, “The s— that I just wrote is not even impressing me. That’s the reality. Or the s— I been writing this week, or the s— that I wrote this month, none of it has even moved me at all. ‘Why is that?’ Oh, OK, well the answer to that question is, clearly, comfort.”
Rumored to be his final album, The Fall Off, Cole said, “Oh, bro, I’m super comfortable with the potential of being done with this s—. But I’m never going to say, ‘Oh, this is my last album.’ I never know how I’m going to feel two years, three years, four years down the line, 10 years down the line, but please believe, I’m doing all this work for a reason.”
Per Slam Magazine, Cole has publicly floated the idea of his retirement dating back to at least 2016. He revealed in the interview that for him, it’s less about announcing a confirmed retirement and more about pushing himself, making himself uncomfortable. “I’m doing all this work to be at peace with, if I never did another album, I’m cool. That’s the reason for all of this, so I know that I put everything on the table,” Cole said. “I left everything on the table, and I’m good with that. Because there’s a lot of s— I want to do with my life and in my life that, because I have such an intense love and passion for the craft, if I don’t let that go, I’m not going to be able to get to these other things that I also want to learn and grow and be good at. So it’s like, No, let me get everything out on this craft, to where I feel at peace. And then, guess what? If I’m inspired and I feel like doing it again, cool. But if not, I know I left it all on the table.”
On Monday, ESPN reported the rapper was gearing up to play for the Rwanda Patriots of the Basketball Africa League. J. Cole’s signing with the Rwandan club is expected to become official this Thursday. Cole played high school basketball Terry Sanford High School in North Carolina in the early 2000s before walking on at St. John’s University, but ultimately turned his focus to music before playing in a Division I game.
Of course, retirements in hip-hop aren’t uncommon. Jay-Z announced his “retirement” from rap in November 2003, staging the most famous farewell tour in hip-hop history, and then he returned with a new album three years later. Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Waka Flocka Flame have all threatened to retire in recent years, and like Jay-Z, they’ve all returned to music.