j cole dale earnhardt jr espn

J. Cole left his fans slightly puzzled after giving a special shout out (“That shit you said to me changed my life, man”) to Dale Earnhardt Jr. — yes, as in the 40-year-old white NASCAR driver — during his 2014 Forest Hills Drive outro, “Note to Self.” As part of their latest cover story on the seemingly unlikely pair, ESPN The Magazine decided to get to the bottom of this strange yet charming story.

Read more below…


J. Cole:

I’d been working on the album for a year, and I was in such an ecstatic mood — I felt like I won. So while I’m shouting out everybody, I was like, “I may as well pretend a shoutout, somebody I have no idea who they are, just as a joke.” There was an interview Dale Jr. did that asked him what he plays before races, and he said “J. Cole ‘Power Trip,'” which freaked me out! What is Dale Earnhardt Jr. doing playing my shit? How did he even find out about it? You don’t think somebody on that level would ever hear your stuff. From there, I never forgot. I was always like, “Yo, I ride with Dale Earnhardt Jr.” So when I was picking a name, I chose his. And it worked out crazy.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.:

“Power Trip” was coming up on my Pandora station a lot. I found out Cole was from North Carolina, and when you like a guy’s music and you find out he’s from where you’re from, you tend to start to follow him. I heard he had a new album, and it started popping up on my Twitter timeline that there was this shoutout. I was like, “Oh shit, what’s happening here?” So I went and listened to it, and it was funny as hell! So I tweeted to him, “Man, that shit’s funny!” And he retweeted it and thought it was cool.

Read the full interview here. The issue hits newsstands February 2.

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