Rap newcomer J. Cole, who just released his debut album “Cole World: The Sideline Story” this week, covers the latest issue of the Atlanta-based Rolling Out Magazine where he dishes on everything from gossip blogs, to his rap style, to getting rejected by Jay-Z the year before he signed with Roc Nation and more.
Read the highlights below:
Your first encounter with Jay-Z. What led to that moment?
I graduated from St. John’s University. At the time, all of my friends got nine-to-five jobs and were making $30,000 to 40,000 per year. I was working at a newspaper in Queens making $8 per hour at a part-time job so that I could still do music at night. I heard that Jay-Z was recording the American Gangster album. That same night, I made two beats and I thought it would be perfect for Jay-Z. I went to the studio where Jay-Z was recording and I waited outside for three hours. His Phantom finally pulled up. I was super timid and shy. I had the CD in my hand and I tried to hand it to Jay-Z. He looked at it and said, ‘What is this? I don’t want that. Give it to one of those other guys.’ It was crushing. That was another moment.
But I snapped back to reality. I knew after that, I had to go harder. That type of rejection fuels me. I believe that greatness is fueled by rejection. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team; Jay-Z had trouble getting a record deal before Reasonable Doubt; and no one wanted to sign Kanye West as a rapper.
How did the second meeting with Jay-Z come about?
One year later, Jay-Z heard a song through Mark Pitts. Jay called me for a meeting. It was a three-hour meeting and I played my music [for] him. We talked about President Obama and other things. Five weeks later, he offered me a record deal.
Beyond music, your name was mentioned by gossip bloggers who reported that you and Rihanna had a sex tape. How did you react when you heard about it?
Gossip is foreign to me. By nature, I don’t like gossip. I never was on the gossip sites. Now being on the other side, it’s annoying. A lot of people don’t know the difference between gossip and reality. They may think that you have a sex tape with Rihanna, or [that] you’re having sex with Solange because of what someone made up. But I guess it’s just something that comes with the territory.
Are there any drawbacks or pressure to being signed to an artist of Jay-Z’s caliber?
There aren’t any drawbacks. It’s great to have someone who has been the most successful rapper in history – to be able to have that guidance is all the advantage I need. Being associated with that name will make people pay attention. I love to get inside perspective from Jay-Z and guys like No I.D.
How does Cole World: The Sideline Story reflect who you are as a person?
This album speaks to the type of artist I want to be. I think the album will provide thought provoking lyrics, and heartfelt stories. I want to take listeners on a ride. It shows the type of balance that I want to have as an artist. I want to be at the top of the list when it comes to rap. I want the respect of the hip-hop fans and connoisseurs. I want to be on everybody’s list.
When it comes to hip-hop on a national scale, Fayetteville is relatively unknown. How did you approach being the first major hip-hop artist to represent that city?
I took pride in being the first artist out of Fayetteville to make it. I made sure that I was shouting out my city with every chance I got. I knew that there weren’t many people coming to my city looking for rappers, but I never felt that people wouldn’t respect me. I just knew that I had to make people pay attention.
Wow at that Jay-Z story. Guess J. Cole’s talent eventually spoke for itself though, because the man signed him a year later, probably without even remembering that little incident. It’s funny how life sometimes comes full circle, ain’t it?
More from J. Cole’s photoshoot with Rolling Out below: