During J. Cole’s Born Sinner listening session in New York City, the North Carolina emcee shared the details of how his “Let Nas Down” record came about. The lengthy story from the rapper detailed his various meetings with Jay-Z, which consisted of Cole playing records he thought would be singles for his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story.
After numerous attempts at a single, Cole became inspired to create “Work Out,” a song that would ultimately become his album single, after listening to Kanye West’s College Dropout record “The New Workout Plan” in a hotel room.
“Towards the end of all that, there was a diamond in the rough. There was like a shining moment for me,” he revealed in a video posted on XXLMag.com. “One night I was in this hotel room after a show and I was listening to College Dropout, as I do. And on the worst song on that album, which is my favorite album, so I’m not dissing. But on the worse song on that album, ‘Workout Plan,’ I heard the shit that I had been hearing for like—eight years now. I heard it different as a producer like ‘oh shit’…I made a rough version of the beat right there in the hotel room. By the time I got back to Europe a few days later I had ‘Work Out.’”
Cole later spoke on being nearly devastated when many, including Queensbridge lyricist Nas and producer No I.D., were far from impressed with the record.
“My partner gets a call from No I.D…And he’s like ‘Yo, who approved this shit? Who’s behind this? Ya’ll standing behind this shit’…He finally did call me a week later and he was explaining to me like ‘To tell you the truth I was in the studio with Nas man and that nigga was like ‘Yo, why the fuck that nigga make that shit? He don’t know he the one’’…I’m getting defensive, but really I was just hurt as a fan. I idolized that dude. I had his raps written on my walls,” Cole explained.
J. Cole’s sophomore album, Born Sinner, will be released on June 18.