What do J. Cole and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have in common? Both hail from North Carolina, and they’ve both found a new home on the cover of ESPN magazine. But inside the issue, we find out even more.

The unlikely duo teamed up for the magazine’s music issue, the NASCAR driver taking the wheel as the Forest Hills Drive rapper takes the passenger seat. They weren’t just plucked by an editor to be paired together at random, either. On the final track of his latest album, Cole gave a shout-out to Dale after finding out that he listens to “Power Trip” before his races. And the rest is hip-hop history.

The guys naturally bond over their birthplaces before realizing they aren’t so different from one another; both are more than the stereotypes placed upon them and they share “super-duper respect” for everyone, regardless of race or occupation.

“Our worlds have a lot more in common than people want to think,” J. Cole says. “Stereotypes prevent the worlds from colliding and connecting more. The powers that be like it like that. They like it that the cultures don’t mix, because if they ever were to mix, they would realize they’re in the same boat and have a lot more in common than they have differences. It’s these guys that are actually holding us down—both of us.”

He continues, touching on the police brutality cases of Eric Garner and Michael Brown:

“I do believe that with these two worlds — NASCAR and hip-hop — there’s something to be said here. Everything that’s happening in the news recently, you’ve got Mike Brown, you’ve got Eric Garner, all these terrible events happening that I feel like the media twists and flips, and there’s all these biases on television that warp the message that’s getting to the NASCAR crowd or this crowd. If there was more of an in-depth, honest look at who these people are — who Mike Brown really was, the fact that this guy had a family that really loved him … and yeah, he had problems. Everybody has problems. That’s one thing that unites us: We have good kids and bad kids. Everybody got bad kids — black and white, rich and poor. Everybody got good kids. I feel like people that look like me and dress like me are often painted as being that bad kid, when in actuality if you got to know us, you would know we’re just like your children.”

See what else these two have to say when the issue hits stands February 2.


J. Cole’s Most Thought-Provoking Lyrics On “2014 Forest Hills Drive” (LIST)
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