If you were baffled by the Dale Earnhardt Jr. shoutout at the end of J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive LP, don’t worry about a thing, ESPN: The Magazine is on the case. As it turns out, the NASCAR star is a big fan of Jermaine’s. Who knew right?
It all started when I missed the deadline for the physical CD album credits, so I decided to put them on a song and basically shout out everybody who had something to do with the album. 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. Everywhere I go now — the airport, the store — people say, “Yo, Cole, I love that album, bro, it’s a classic!” And Dale Earnhardt Jr., it’s the first thing they bring up! It’s already a thing in hip-hop, already an inside joke that’s going to live forever.
Continue below for some footage of Cole and Dale shooting the cover, and click through to ESPN to read their joint Q&A in its entirety.