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J. Cole Details Struggles in ‘Life & Rhymes: J. Cole – Crooked Smile’

Anyone who’s been listening to J. Cole since his mixtape days knows that “the struggle” is one of the main themes of his rhymes. He talks about not having much when he was coming up in Fayetteville, N.C. — a lot. He’s still talking about where he came from, only this time it’s through a short documentary rather than through verse.

The rapper recounts when he was struggling to make rent and writing ‘Crooked Smile’ on ‘Life & Rhymes: J. Cole – Crooked Smile’ — a six-minute documentary that aired on MTV last night (Oct. 23).

He first details his relationship with his Jamaica, N.Y., landlord, Mohammed, who he shouts out in ‘Power Trip’ (“Even back then when I was up there in Mohammed crib / Paying 1700 for the rent, money well spent / No heater, but a n—- made heat, may I vent”) and ‘Shook Ones’ Freestyle (“The 15th of the month and I’m just now paying Mohammed / Said the rent’s due on the first / But he don’t know the s— I been through and it hurts”).

J. Cole holds a special gratitude for him because he let the MC slide when he was short on rent a few times — he believed in J. Cole’s rap dreams. He eventually paid Mohammed back as soon as he actually did make it.

Cole then reveals that creating ‘Crooked Smile’ was no cakewalk either. “I wanted it to be bigger than rap. I wanted it to be universal,” he says. “So I kept trying to write these verses that would elevate the song and make it appeal to the world and not a J. Cole song about his smile or his teeth.”

‘Crooked Smile’ serves as the centerpiece to ‘Born Sinner,’ he explains.

“When you hear the album, you’ll notice it starts off real dark. As the album progress, it gets lighter and the reason why that is is it’s just metaphor for getting out that dark place, out of depression, out of hell trying to make it to heaven and trying to make it to happiness,” J. Cole says. “‘Crooked Smile’ serves as a theme song of that second half of the album.”

Get some more insight on the doc as the rhymer speaks with Sway about the project below.

Watch J. Cole’s Interview With Sway

Watch Bonus Footage From ’Life & Rhymes: J. Cole- Crooked Smile’

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