“I don’t have a lust of money, and I don’t have a, I actually don’t even have a love of money.”
“Everybody got something to be thankful for, even the homeless man.”
“I’m not actually good at being resourceful. I’m getting better.”
– J. Cole
J. Cole’s Top 10 Rules for Success and Business
He’s a rapper, record producer, and songwriter. He received a nomination for best new artist at the 54th Grammy Awards. He’s the first rapper in 25 years to have a platinum-selling album without any guest appearances. He’s J. Cole, and here’s my take on his top ten rules for success.
Rule #1: Love What You DO
Interviewer: Do you want to make a lot of money?
I do want to make a lot of money, but that’s only for safety purposes. Like, I don’t have a lust of money, and I don’t have a, I actually don’t even have a love of money. Like, you got people, and I know these people, you know, they’re my friends, and they’re also rappers that I know.
They love money, they’re addicted to getting money, and that’s cool too cause that’s what makes some of the most successful businessmen. I don’t love money like that. I love the comfort, and the safety, and the ability to retire my mom, or like if there’s a problem with my brother, or if my father has a problem, I like that feeling of being able to provide.
So, that’s the thing I do love about money. But, to tell you the truth, what makes me the happiest is the music, working on the music. I’m in the studio right now with Elle Varner, and I’m producing for another person, that makes me happy. That makes me way more happy than getting a check.
My album comes out, the response is amazing, that makes me way more happy. If I write a song, I made Let Nas Down, a song off my album, when I made that song, the feeling that I had after I made that song is way more important to me than making money. You know? But yeah, of course I want to make a lot of money, so I can be safe, just in case something pops off and I might need it.
Rule #2: Stay Relevant
Like, I don’t buy into my own hype. You know? Like, I’m grateful for the reactions, and the appreciation, but I don’t buy into like, yeah I’m the man, like nah. I feel like I got a lot left, like I want to be here for years, like.
I don’t, being hot in 2013 is cool, you know, and being critically-acclaimed in 2013 is cool, but like what about 2020, like where am I going to be? I don’t want to be making a documentary 20 years from now talking about, like, this as if it was the end.
I want to still be present, and still be making music, I want to be like, you know, Bruce Springsteen or something. Like, making song that are relevant. If a tragedy happens, make a song, and I can just put it out and people, you know, people know I’m still speaking for them. I want to be like that, have my art always appreciated.
Rule #3: Appreciate What Do You Have
Interviewer: What was going through your mind when everything was just falling apart, and you don’t even know, like you don’t even know what to do, and basically everything was just falling apart and you just trying to find a way. Like, what was going through your mind? Did you ever think, like, damn what if this don’t happen for me, you know?
My mind never worked like that in the beginning, when like when I wasn’t on, I never had those thoughts. But, I can relate to that, only because there came a point after my first album was already out, where I started like really getting down on myself.
Like, man, like I really, like, I really just dropped the ball, man. Like, this didn’t go how I wanted it to go. Like, I didn’t come out how I foresaw myself coming out, and I was really getting down on myself, and it felt, it really did feel way more, and everybody else is looking at me like, are you crazy, you’re the number one album in the country, you got a Grammy nominee, and I’m not seeing or appreciating any of that.
So what I can say is you have to stop looking at what you don’t have, and what’s not happening for you, and start appreciating, like, what you do actually have.
Like, my man you got on a nice watch, like your hat is fresh, like you in New York City, it’s the land of opportunity, you know what I mean? You’re a good looking guy, I’m sure you got, maybe, a girlfriend, like there’s a lot of things, your family, there’s a lot of things to be grateful for, and that’s the only way you can climb out of, like, a place of focusing on what you don’t have is by focusing on, like man, what do I have to be thankful for.
And everybody got something to be thankful for, even the homeless man, if he wanted to he could be like, yo I’m breathing today. Like, you know what I mean? Like, my arms work, my legs work. You can start very small and it’s a process, but that’s how you can get up out like, of a negative space like that.
Rule #4: Be Resourceful
Music is my passion, man. Production. Besides the actual art of rapping, there’s a lot I want to accomplish on the production end, and the production side. I would love to try my hand at acting. My mother’s an actress.
She tells me all the time that she thinks it’s in me. She’s been telling me that for years. Boy, you an actor, I’m telling you. She always tells me, you know, so I would love to try my hand at that and see if I’m any good.
Interviewer: Do you use your access, I mean, you probably could call Will Smith and get some advice.
Interviewer: Do you do that stuff?
I have the connection, at least, to do it. I don’t, I guess cause I’m not passionate about it yet, it’s just a thought. But hopefully when I become passionate, or when I take it serious, I will use that card, you just gave me the card to use.
You gave me the idea for it, so. But yeah, I do have access. I’m not actually good at being resourceful. I’m getting better. That’s another thing, to be a great businessman, I think you have to be incredibly resourceful.
I’m new to business, period, I never was good with money, so having money is new to me, and therefore using my resources, being a great businessman is new to me.
Rule #5: #Believe
Only reason I was in New York was cause I wanted to do music, so school was just, like in my eyes, school was just like the temporary thing that I was doing while I was chasing the dream. So then, about my sophomore, junior year is when I was like you know what, wait, I got to refocus and re-shift my energy to the music thing, that’s when I was going on a rampage, I probably hit up every A and R on Myspace, but I sent these same people messages, you know, like through Myspace or whatever, or called their office.
I called it up and was like yeah, you’ve reached Dale Jones for Atlantic Records, please leave a message after the beep. Yo, I left the longest rap on his voicemail though. I just rapped on his voicemail, and I think I might have left my number at the end or something like that, but like, of course I never got called back, you know, I wouldn’t even call somebody back that did that, but it’s just to show you the type of I was doing.
I was trying anything and everything. So time was running out, it was coming close to graduation, and I hadn’t really made any major moves, but I always felt like it was coming, it was coming. So man, it took after I graduated, it still took another year-and-a-half after I graduated to actually get to J and then get all that stuff rolling, but you know, it’s all a process man, you got to believe, have faith. I always felt like it was waiting around the corner, so that’s why I just kept going.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about having faith in that, and belief, how did you remain, at that point, to have like a strong faith in what you’re doing?
Man, cause I felt like for years, this is years of work and years of me knowing that this is what I’m supposed to do, I think when you believe in yourself then you know, like, you just know. So even when you’re working a part-time job, and you getting paid eight dollars an hour, and you like damn I don’t want to be here, you know, if you truly know what’s coming, then you don’t mind doing that because you know it’s temporary.
This is temporary, and this is temporary sacrifice for what I want to end up doing. So, that’s what kept me going. Cause I never questioned it, it was always like well, I’m closer. Today I’m closer than I was yesterday, and it’s that mentality that’s going to get you through it or not. That’s with anything, that’s not even just music, that’s life, period.
Interviewer: And to expand on that, you believe that you control your destiny, where your life goes. How important is that, please, I want you to tell the people out there, inspire them with the story, like how you came up to where you are right now.
Certain things happen in your life that you have no control over, but life is about how you react to those things, and handle those things, and I don’t know, those occurrences or whatever. So I absolutely believe that you choose, like, where you want to go, what you want to be, and it’s up to you to get there.
Rule #6: Study The Greats
As a rapper, there’s very few greats that I studied, and I still continue to study, and Nas is obviously one of them, it’s obvious. I really had his lyrics printed on my wall, they used to have this site it was called OHHLA, original hip-hop lyrics whatever, archive, yeah somebody know. And then you print them out.
So, I would print these joints out, and I would print ’em up, and hang ’em up on my wall, and literally if you walk in my room, you might be like what’s wrong with this kid. I’m staring at the wall like this, just reading the lyrics because I wanted to know what it was like to be that good.
You know what I mean? Like, and I was rapping at the time, so I wanted to know, and it was my goal to be that good. I wanted to somehow try to master the style. I felt like if I read it enough, if I listened, I used to go to sleep listening into I Am, you know what I mean, people would be sleeping on that album, I’d be trying to tell them that man’s spitting note for real on that album.
I used to go to sleep listening to that album because I wanted to try to master the style if I could. You know what I mean, and you can’t master that style, but I felt about you how you probably felt about Rakim, or Kane, or G Rap, or whoever it was that you looked at like the god. That’s how I felt.
Rule #7: Be Yourself
Any musician, period, any artist I think just absolutely do will sing your heard, period. Say what’s on your mind, speak what’s in your heart and how you really feel. When you’re trying to be something else, when you’re trying to fit into what’s going on, it’s like you kind of stray away from your path a little bit, and sometimes you want to expand your style, and like grow, and that’s always good, but like never veer too far from who you are, you know, as a person.
Rule #8: Start Small
Best way to establish yourself on the Internet is to start small. Once again, be humble. First of all, you got to make sure your music is correct, there’s a million niggas online doing music, but once you feel like your music is truly correct, stay humble, start small, go to like some of the smaller blogs that, you know, they don’t get as many hits, but maybe they’ll post your if they like it.
You know, shout out to DC to BC, and you know, like Part of Me Duke, and people like smaller blogs that I with are Herfection, you know. Maybe if they feeling your you got a shot, like if they put it up there’s a way better chance that the big blogs will pick it up, especially after seeing it, you know? If Herfection picks it up, then maybe DC to BC puts it up, and Part of Me Duke, that’s three more smaller blogs that still have good followings that are putting your up so the bigger blogs like 2DOPEBOYZ might pick it up now, and then after they bring it up now, so that’s the best way, just start. And big dreaming it just starts small, and then, you know, but the Internet is not the end all, be all, man. It’s a lot more to go.
Rule #9: Think Before You Act
Interviewer: Are you going into a club with $80,000 in a garbage bag like some people we know?
No, I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that live, in person. I can’t do that, I’m too afraid of losing, of going back over there to ever blow money without thinking about it. There’s a song on my album called Chaining Day, and this is the type of artist I am, and this album is like this to a tee.
Most rappers are going to say paid a hundred thousand dollars for the chain, and they just, you know, show you they chain. That’s a good ass song, I paid a hundred thousand dollars for the chain. I paid a hundred thousand dollars for the chain. I paid a hundred thousand dollars for the chain, and that’s their whole song, and the whole song they’ll tell you how they spend a hundred thousand dollars for a chain.
My song is going to tell you, like my thought process before I paid all of this money for some jewelry, which is really was like this, like oh my god, like yo, yes, do I want it? Yes. How much? People pay that? And then my internal conversation was just like yo, you know better. Like, you definitely know you know better than to spend this type of money.
But, do you want it, is it worth it, what’s the investment? Well, when I’m on stage, it’s going to look really good, so you could say it’s for your career, oh man. It does look nice. How much? And then it’s more internal conversation.
Man, you know what you could do with all that money, you know whose lives you could change with that type of money you going to spend out on chains? So that other song was I spent a hundred thousand dollars on a chain, I spent a hundred, and then in my song you get all of these internal thoughts that led me to finally be like, alright, here you go.
And then I wrote the check. Or, at least, I gave them my card, you know what I mean? But, I gave you my thought process first, before I just spend a hundred thousand dollars on a chain.
Interviewer: J. Cole, value added.
Rule #10: Love
When we young, and even when we old, the world is constantly pumping us with images, right, about what life should be about. Constantly telling us what life is about, what it should be about. In the States it’s called The American Dream.
I don’t know what the they call it in England, but I know you all got it, and I know it includes the same, what does it always include? A lot of money, a big ass house, a brand new car, and a wife that’s like not even genetically possible to have, right? That’s what they tell us we need to be happy, even though the world is set up so that 99% of us can’t never have this.
But we idolize the people that do have it, we sit and we watch, and we go oh my god, their life looks so perfect, look what they doing, oh my god. And I came here tonight to tell you all, I was the same person that was sitting down watching like, oh my god, they look so perfect must be nice.
Imma go get it. And then I went and got this, but when I got there, I’m telling you all, up close and personal, that don’t feel right, that don’t seem right, man. And I’m coming back to tell you all all that they told you, full of, it’s not what’s important. It’s not what it was.
How do I know that? I know that because right now, it’s a man he got millions of dollars, he got a billion dollars, and he’s miserable, right? But you got a family that come from where we come from, worse conditions than where we come from, they couldn’t afford a ticket to this show tonight if they wanted, but yet somehow they got more happiness and joy in they life right now, than this man will ever have in his.
How is that possible? How is that even possible? That everything we thought we needed, he got it, and he’s miserable, and they have nothing, and they got happiness? What do they have that he don’t got?
There’s British people here. Too smart.
Thank you guys so much, I made this because Khari Butler asked me to. So, if there’s a famous entrepreneur you want me to profile next, leave it in the comments below, and I’ll see what I can do. I’d also love to know which of the ten clips had the biggest impact on you, and why, what change you’re going to make as a result of watching this video.
Leave it in the comments, and I will join in the discussion. Finally, I wanted to give a quick shout out to Patricia Romboletti, thank you so much for pre-ordering my book, it means a lot to me. It means the world to me.
For those of you who want your chance at a shout out in a future video, you can check out the information in the description below. Thank you guys, continue to believe, or whatever your one word is. And I’ll see you soon.
This thing is a long-distance race, this business is a long-distance thing. You want to be relevant, you want to be around, you want to be providing for your family 10, 15, 20 years from now, you just said Jay Z’s about to be 44.
He put out his first album when he was 25, that’s 20 years of relevancy, you know and like of just, so that’s what it teaches me. Being around all of these guys, even Uncle Wes, it’s like been in this for awhile, you know what I mean? He’s been around the game of basketball for a long time, it’s longevity.
So, when I make decisions, whether which single, this show or that show, or this tour, should I get on this feature, should I take this money to do this song, or should I make my decisions more calculated about is this something that’s going to, like does this further my career, or does this, you know? I think about things in that manner. What does this do for me in the long run.