J. Cole might sound like the self-enlightened rapper preaching to the younger rap generation on his new album K.O.D., but only because he’s been in their shoes. In a rare interview with Vulture, Cole admits he felt depressed while working on 2014 Forest Hills Drive.

The “ATM” rapper told Vulture’s Paul Cantor after the release of his first two albums Cole World: The Sideline Story and Born Sinner, he compromised who he really wanted to be as an artist to get mainstream approval. It wasn’t until he cleared his mind through meditation that he realized the common thread weaving his unhappiness.

“I didn’t like how I felt about my life. I’d been depressed for like three years,” he said. “And I realized I was putting too much importance on what other people thought about me.”

Cole’s “Once an Addict (Interlude)” speaks on the personal story of watching his mother wrestle with the intense arms of drugs and alcohol after his stepfather left. He never fully uncovered the damage it did to his psyche if it imposed any damage at all.

“My mom going through her s**t had a traumatic impact on me, and I never had a chance to process that s**t. I just put my head down,” he revealed. “I wasn’t having an honest conversation with myself.”

K.O.D.’s success is soon to match and even surpass 2014 Forest Hills Drive and 4 Your Eyez Only as it received 36.7 million Spotify streams and 64.5 million streams on Apple Music in the first 24 hours. Now, Cole says he accepts who he is and doesn’t think twice about what a hater has to say.

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