J. Cole has opened up about how smoking cigarettes at just 6-years-old led to a life-changing moment for the rapper. 

During an interview with Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers (as per Complex), Cole shared about the worst thing he did as a child. 

Cole found himself often spending his time with his older brother and in turn the older kids in his neighborhood. These older kids were smoking and Cole says at the time he was “young and fearless and trying to be cool. So, it was like, ‘Oh, y’all smoking. Like, let me see that.’ And, of course, we’re all out there kinda [with] young parents, with long leashes.”

Cole continued: “At six years old, I was smoking cigarettes regularly around the neighborhood.” He was smoking at that age for two to three weeks. One pivotal day arrived for Cole when his older brother discovered he was smoking. 

His 10-year-old brother didn’t smoke like the other kids in the neighborhood and chose to tell their mother about Cole smoking. At the time Cole felt like his brother’s actions were treason but now says that “looking back in retrospect I’m so grateful my brother did this.”

Returning home and facing his mother, Cole said “I saw her face. When she smelled cigarettes on my breath, her face was heartbroken. It was disbelief. It was like, crushed. I remember the look on her face and she was like, ‘You have been smoking.’ It like hit her.”

Cole, who had no fears or worries going into this moment with his mother, ended it and changed his life forever. “The reason why I think that was a life-changing moment, where after that I didn’t need much correction—I became a self-corrector—is because that was the first time I became aware that, ‘Oh, my actions can hurt someone else,'” he said.

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The epiphany for Cole wasn’t just about how the choice to smoke at such a young age was wrong, but how his decisions and his lying could hurt somebody he loved. 

Cole ended the interview talking about his wishes for his kids. “The thing that I learned at 30, I hope you can learn at 15 or 16. I just want you to be able to learn the lessons that can lead you to peace quicker,” he explained. He added that he wants them to learn how to “enjoy life on a content level.”

Watch J. Cole chat with Bob Myers:

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