What qualities make jcole a good rapper
Not only since his song of the same name has been known that J. Cole, as the 'Middle Child' of rap, has the rare gift of attracting and inspiring trueschoolers and newschoolers. The radiance of the Dreamville head reaches as far as Portugal, where Mishlawi first came into contact with spoken singing about a decade ago - thanks to King Cole. At the age of 22 exactly that Mishlawi is now again a star in his homeland. In the interview he talks about forgotten birthdays, crazy football fans and, of course, Jermaine Cole.
Mishlawi, do you like playing cards?
Not that much at all. I called my debut album 'Solitaire' mainly because the title suits my situation. Being an artist in the music industry is like solitaire: it's a game that you're on your own. At the end you put your cards on the table and then you win or lose. 'Solitaire' is also a very personal album. I wanted to show people which way I wanted to go with my sound; Apart from two 'small' features, I didn't get any guests on the album.
Perhaps the most personal track on the album is 'Selfish'. On this song you address yourself to your family and a brother, whereby you are dissatisfied with yourself because you have repeatedly disappointed them in the past. For example, you say: "Word to my brother / To the one who understand like no other / I'm so insecure about dissapointing, I wonder / How I let you down another time and another". What are you referring to exactly?
I'm talking about one of my best friends, I don't have a biological brother. I wrote this song at a time when I was so focused on my music that I was neglecting my responsibilities as a person - to my family, friends and everyone close to me. It was always about reaching the next level and achieving the next success. As a result, I sometimes couldn't be there for people who needed me. It wasn't even my bad intentions, I didn't even think about it at the time. And that got me disgusted at some point. From this situation the concept for this song arose.
Immediately after the quoted lines you say: "Word to my family / To the only ones I think that could stand me". Where does this uncertainty come from?
That's not really to be taken literally. It's just like this: you can really fuck up with your friends. And then there will be people who say, "I don't want to have anything to do with him anymore." With my family, however, I know that no matter how much shit I mess, they will always love me, take care of me and only wish me the best. That is unconditional love. At the same time, I feel like I'm not spending enough time with my family. For example, sometimes I forget to check in with my sister, who still lives in the States. Then I think to myself: "Damn, my family loves me so unconditionally and takes care of me more than anyone else. And yet I don't always manage to give them back 100 percent of this love." Sometimes I even feel like I give more to my friends than to my family.
Are you also someone who is bad at memorizing birthdays? Although you can be reminded of birthdays on your cell phone, I still keep forgetting to congratulate people.
I'm terribly bad for that. Then I call the next day and say: "Oh Shit, Bro, sorry!" Because I saw on facebook that it was the person's birthday. (Laughs)
You have just mentioned your origins indirectly. You were born in New Jersey and a little later your family moved to Phoenix. When you were ten years old you went to Portugal ...
... before that we were in Italy for two years - I was eight years old.
What memories do you have of that time? Was it very difficult for you to come to Europe from the USA, learn new languages and make new friends?
It was definitely tough. I came to Phoenix as a baby and stayed there until I was eight years old. All I knew was the friends I had there, the neighborhood we lived in and the school I went to. When my father came home one day and said that he had received a job offer from Italy that he had to accept and that we had to move to Europe with him, I just thought: "What the fuck ?! How is that supposed to be ?! become?"
What is your dad doing for a living?
He works for a pharmaceutical company that makes injectable medicine - basically: drugs. (Laughs) Anyway, I had a hard time coming to terms with it at first. But when we got to Italy, I was open to the new experience. It's also not as difficult to make new friends at the age of eight as it might be when you're 15 or 16 and through puberty. I was so young that I could just go to the neighbors to ask if anyone wanted to play with me. It also helped a lot that I went to an international school in both Italy and Portugal. There were many people there who were in a similar situation to me.
So based on your biography, it's no surprise that you are fluent in both English and Portuguese. In your songs you sing and rap in English. At the beginning of your career, did you consider making music in Portuguese?
No, because English is by far the 'easiest' language for me to express myself. I feel most comfortable and most authentic in the language. As you said, I speak Portuguese fluently, but it's not my mother tongue. But I've also made songs with Portuguese people, which is pretty cool, especially for fans who come from Portugal.
That's right, 'Rain' is one of those songs - and at the same time one of your most successful songs to date.
Yes exactly. On the track is Plutónio, a rapper from Portugal and a good friend of mine.
How regular are you still in the States? And does it even still feel like home when you are there?
More or less. It doesn't feel like Portugal. I've been in Portugal for so long that I've got used to and adapted to the culture, the food and the more relaxed lifestyle. But there have definitely been times when I've been to the United States a lot. Now I'm only there about once every two years. Mainly, of course, because my sister and a few other family members still live there. For example, last year I was there when my sister got married.
Just a few days ago you played a show in the nearly sold-out Coliseu dos Recreios in Lisbon. How did it feel to stand in front of almost 4,000 people in your city?
It was amazing and definitely an emotional day for me! That was the first headline show I ever played in Lisbon. We have an incredible number of festivals in Portugal - in every place, no matter how small. So you can tour all over the country and play 50 shows a year without doing a single 'own' concert. Some artists don't even do that at all and are still huge in Portugal. So for me it was amazing that so many people were willing to buy a ticket for my show. And all of them knew the lyrics of my album by heart! That was totally crazy. When I looked up at the stands, I thought to myself for a moment: "Oh shit, I usually don't have any spectators up there, otherwise everyone is always right downstairs in front of the stage." That was really cool. (Laughs)
At your concerts you always have a band that supports you. Which I personally think is great, but which - especially in hip-hop - is anything but the norm. What is the biggest advantage of performing with a band instead of 'just' having a tour DJ?
It depends a bit on what effect you want to create. I understand everyone who wants to keep the sound of their music at concerts as close as possible to the studio versions. I respect that. Still, one aspect is neglected: the dynamics and the element of surprise in a show are completely different when you perform with a band. With a band you can change your songs in the live version and build up completely new energies. And of course it alone makes a difference whether there is only one person plus a DJ on stage or whether there are many talented people and a lot happens. Of course, I still have a DJ who plays trappy hi-hats and snares, for example, that you can't play with conventional drums.
J. Cole is also one of the artists who is almost always on stage with a band. In any case, this has always been the case at the concerts I've seen of him so far ...
(Interrupts) You have seen J. Cole several times? I'm so jealous! I've never seen him live, he's never been to a concert in Portugal. So I'd have to go to London or something to see him. I will definitely do that one day, but it has never happened so far.
But the main reason I address Cole is because you've emphasized in the past how much he inspires you. Apart from the fact that he always performs with a band just like you: What makes him so special in your opinion?
It's difficult to put into words. It doesn't affect me so much in the sense that my music sounds similar to his - our sounds are, by and large, very different. It's rather that I followed J. Cole from the start: Everything he has released to date, from his first mixtapes - 'The Come Up', 'The Warm Up' and 'Friday Night Lights' - through his first album 'Cole World: The Sideline Story', up to his newer releases, touched me. What I mean by that: If I hadn't heard his music, I probably would never have started rapping myself. His songwriting and the way he makes music is just very in tune with me; how he formulates and says certain things. I often thought to myself: "Fuck, I didn't know that you could say these things like that!" That was very inspiring. Back then, my friends often said to me: "Who the hell is that? What are you listening to?" Today everyone hears him and my friends say, "Okay, J. Cole is sick!"
I can understand that completely. It's incredibly easy to identify with him and empathize with the things he says. And yet there are quite a few who still find J. Cole 'boring'. Probably mainly because it doesn't really take place in public and uses its social media channels little or no use.
He's just an inconspicuous guy. And I respect him for using social media so little. It's a bit annoying to see how there are artists these days who are super well known - but who without Instagram nobody would know. For example, I know exactly what Trippie Redd looks like, what he says and does - but I may only know five of his songs.
That sounds familiar to me too. Sometimes I stumble across profiles of rappers with several million followers on Instagram and ask myself: "Who are you?"
Tekashi (6ix9ine, author's note) is one of them. If he hadn't had Instagram, he would never have become this famous. Of course, this is also a way of starting a career. But these people are more entertainers than musicians. J. Cole, on the other hand, is a real musician - I really appreciate that.
I'm still in a section where so much lies ahead of me. So it would be nonsense if I said, "There are so many people who annoy me all the time" or something like that. It's getting a little crazy in Portugal. It's the classic: some people you grew up with believed in you all along and you were always close friends with them. But then there are also those people who said at the time: "Fuck this guy and his music. Why is he rapping at all?" Or people with whom I have never had anything to do with, who now meet me and ask, "Bro, can you film yourself wishing my boyfriend a happy birthday?" That's part of it, but it's also annoying.Back to your Portuguese homeland again: Are you a football fan?
I'm a big fan. I'm not an Ultra, but Benfica is my team. I like to watch the Champions League. (Laughs) But it's absurd: In Portugal - as here in Germany too - there are people who walk over dead bodies for football. I'm not that kind of person. If you seriously want to sit down with me at a table to argue with me about football, I'll tell you: "Bro, you have to chill out!" (Laughs) Football evokes people's basic instincts. (Laughs)Is Cristiano Ronaldo ...
...the God. The G.O.A.T.!I wanted to hear something like that. He's won pretty much everything, has an almost inhuman work ethic, and trains incredibly hard. Are there qualities that Cristiano has that you would like to adopt - for yourself and your career?
He has a confidence and a swag that you don't see in the average person. Sure: he's Ronaldo, he's no longer normal. But he also has to take a lot, even in Portugal, his home country. All you have to do is turn on the TV and you will hear things like: "Cristiano Ronaldo rapes women?" or "Is Cristiano Ronaldo gay?" This is just nonsense. He is condemned from many sides and still never breaks down. He's always on top. You have to love that about him. He's a monster.Finally, you have the chance to give us music tips on the way. Which Portuguese artists should you have on your screen?
Richie Campbell. Not only is he a good friend of mine, he has also helped me a lot and brought me into the Portuguese music scene. It's been popular in Portugal for a long time, used to do reggae, but lately it's been more in the direction of R&B and dancehall. Richie is the greatest artist we currently have in Portugal. He is very talented and also makes his music in English. I can definitely recommend him!
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