“I’ve been signed for two and a half years, it’s been a long journey for me,” J. Cole explains, holed up in Jay-Z’s Roc the Mic Studio in Manhattan. Donning a snapback, t-shirt and cargo shorts, the young Roc Nation stalwart premiered the greater whole of near finished tracks for his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story this evening to a select few in the music industry, and HipHopDX was there.
Cole explained he had well over 30 tracks to choose from for Cole World arriving September 27th. While sequencing and track titles remain tentative, the bulk of production does rest in J. Cole’s hands, with the exception of one No I.D. track, a Danja Handz track, and the assumed album opener by new production team The University. Some cuts on Cole World: The Sideline Story have already made their rounds, including “Work Out”, “In the Morning”, “Lost Ones”, and “Lights Please”, which coincidentally was the song that drew the attention of manager Mark Pitts.
Per Cole, his demo for “Lights Please” was sitting in Pitts’ office unopened until his assistant Kirk finally played the record as Pitts was about to leave his office. He turned around “like he smelled cooked food,” Cole explains, and the rest is history. A skit on the album has J. Cole telling the story of how the night he got signed he was arrested and spent the night in jail, but was resting on the high of his record deal.
What hasn’t yet been heard on J. Cole’s debut is a healthy balance of pensive and energetic tracks, where Cole’s talent – both lyrically and musically – sits at the forefront. Collaborations are very few, with one confidential collab with a female rapper who moonlights as a singer. Cole discusses several topics on his debut, ranging from relationships to personal achievements and the highs and lows of this new life he still seems to be accustoming to. The title track presents high-powered spitting from Cole on relatable subjects like student loans. Another standout track on the album takes a futuristic abstract beat and inserts the repetition of Jay-Z’s classic line from the song “A Million And One Questions.” The question of Jay-Z appearing on the album still arrives with no answer. “Your guess is as good as mine if we’re gonna get a Jay-Z verse,” Cole says of the one song he wants Jay-Z on, coincidentally the final track on the album. While some bars from the Roc Nation kingpin would be nice, Cole says he’s not pressed. Rather, the Hov cameo would put an end to the continuous question of whether or not Jay-Z cosigns him.
Still unfinished, Cole World shows great promise and is the type of album Hip Hop should expect from the multi-faceted emcee /producer who stepped on the scene with well-deserved praise. Cole admits he already has the structure for the second album, which he hopes to release in the Summer of 2012. While Cole World: The Sideline Story was anticipated for a summer release, J. Cole is fine with missing the mark. “It’ll be a Cole Fall instead,” he says.