My Exclusive Interview With J. Cole: Jay-Z’s Protege Speaks On His Debut LP, 1st Time Meeting Jay-Z, Branding Himself, Mixtapes & More
This Fall Jay-Z’s protégé and Roc Nation rapper J. Cole will be releasing his highly anticipated debut album, entitled Cold World: The Sideline Story. A day after performing on the first date of his “Cold World” tour in Vancouver, I phoned Cole for a quick conversation. During the interview, Cole shared some of his wildest tour moments, discussed his first time meeting Jay-Z, branding himself, the importance of mixtapes and his debut album. The disc has collaborations with Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, Drake and Trey Songz.
I know you’re on a world tour, on Tuesday (July 23), you performed the opening night in Vancouver. How was it there?
It was great; the fans was standing up screaming and rapping the lyrics to my songs.
I read on your Twitter page that a female in the front row stole the cell phone out of your pockets. How did that happen?
I was performing and got a little too close to the crowd and she grabbed my pockets and took my phone. I got it back the same night; right after the concert.
Was that your crazier experiences while on the road?
Yeah, that was.
On September 27, you will be releasing your official album Cold World: The Sideline Story; what can the fans expect from the album?
They can expect a high level of music from the productions, to the stories, to the concept. I feel like rap is in a comfortable space right now. Everybody is rapping about the same things, in the same way with the same flow and the same beat. That’s cool but I wanted to come with something different and shake up the game.
Who are some of the artists and producers you worked with on the album?
I worked with Jay-Z, Trey Songz, Drake, Missy Elliott, No I.D. and a few others.
How does it feel to be the first artist signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation?
It feels great; it’s definitely a blessing and an honor. I signed two and a half years ago. The honeymoon is over. It’s about putting this album out, and getting to a place where I want to be in this game which is the very top.
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I first met you back in 2010, when I was interning at XXL magazine and you was doing the “Top 10 Freshmen Cover” photo shoot, since then you have been doing a great job at branding yourself, what are some ways your brand[ed] yourself?
I just try to put out nothing but quality music and try to stick to that. I’m not putting out songs every day or every week. I just try to put out quality material and let my fans spread the word and spread the gospel because that’s what they want to do. They want to put people on, so it’s like we’re in business together. They get their satisfaction from co-signing good music and putting other people on and I appreciate that.
In 2003, you graduated from Terry Stanford High and attended St. John’s University in NYC because you felt like you would have a better chance at getting signed; and it actually worked. I read somewhere you was at work and got a text from one of Jay’s associate and you went in the bathroom to answer the text. Is that the moment that led you to signing to Roc Nation?
Yeah, that was the moments that led to the meeting. After that text, I had a meeting with him for a few hours. Four or five weeks later, I found out that he wanted to do the deal; which was great and that kind of what sparked it all off.
Can you recall your first time meeting Jay-Z?
I was super nervous. My hands were sweating crazy but the meeting went great. He was super cool, down to earth, funny, we talked about music, and he talked about what he liked about my music. It was great, a great meeting.
You released a few mixtapes and EP’s including The Come Up, The Warm Up, Friday Night Lights, and Any Given Sunday EP, how important are mixtapes to you?
They’re very important. You don’t have to sit around and wait for the label no more. You can get your own fan base. Anytime you have that type of control and power, it’s a beautiful thing.
Would “Who Dat” make the album final cut?
Nah; that might be a bonus track somewhere.
“Work Out” has been getting a lot of positive feedback. What inspired that song?
Just summertime, the BBQs, it had that whole vibe to it.
“Can’t Get Enough” Ft. Trey Songs is your new single. Are you shooting a video for the track?
We shot the video in Barbados. We’re going put that out in a few weeks.
Interview and words by Donovan “Don Bleek” Moore. On September 27, please be sure to go out and buy J. Cole’s debut album Cold World: The Sideline Story.
DISCLAIMER: I interviewed J. Cole for Hip Hop Weekly. This same exact story is posted on HipHopWeekly.com.