State Now

Loyalties tested for rapper J Cole by NC State-North Carolina game

J. Cole, right, watches during the second half of N.C. State's 104-78 victory over Virginia Tech at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, January 4, 2017.
J. Cole, right, watches during the second half of N.C. State's 104-78 victory over Virginia Tech at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, January 4, 2017. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Assuming Snowmageddon doesn’t postpone N.C. State’s trip to North Carolina on Saturday night (8 p.m., ESPN), the rivalry game represents a challenge for superstar J. Cole.

The 31-year-old Fayetteville platinum-selling rapper is a lifelong fan of the Tar Heels. That was until this season. Cole, whose current album “4 Your Eyez Only” finished 2016 at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, is good friends with N.C. State freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr., who is also from Fayetteville.

Cole had a front row seat for Smith’s performance in a 104-78 win over Virginia Tech on Wednesday. The freshman point guard recorded N.C. State’s first triple-double (27 points, 11 assists and rebounds) in an ACC game in the home win over the Hokies. Before his album came out last month, Cole was a regular at N.C. State’s games and practice facility.

He has been to four N.C. State home games this season and usually in a pair of Air Jordans. That’s a nod to his favorite team but he usually wears the white/red/black originals, so he’s got the Wolfpack colors.

“He’s a State fan as long as I’m playing for State,” Smith said before the season began. “He’s going to be at a lot of games this season. He’ll push hard for the Pack to win.”

Yeah but Cole is only a part-time Wolfpack fan. Carolina got a shoutout from Cole in his 2011 hit “Work Out” and sat in the front row of the Smith Center to UNC’s home win over Maryland last December.

So will Cole root for the Pack against his Heels on Saturday? Smith says yes. Even against Carolina?

“Even against Carolina,” Smith said.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

N.C. State at UNC

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Smith Center, Chapel Hill

TV: ESPN

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