J. Cole Previews Debut Album, ‘Cole World’ in NYC — Exclusive
"I'm super nervous," J. Cole admits, seated inside Jay-Z's Roc the Mic Studio in New York City on Wednesday evening (Aug. 17). The North Carolina native is previewing his debut album, 'Cole World: The Sideline Story,' for a filled-to-capacity room of people who criticize music for a living. While it's apparent he's a bit intimidated in having the core of his work up for analysis, he's confident in the product he's crafted over the past two years. "I'm very proud of what's on this album."
The 26-year-old Roc Nation dynamo surprised many in attendance during the playback session when he was questioned about who crafted the musical stylings behind some of his debut LP's standout tracks. His response: "I did." About 15 songs were showcased over the course of an hour, and of them, Cole was sure to point out his original works and those created by the likes of beatsmiths the University, Danjahandz, Brian Kidd and No I.D.
Cole's project begins with rhymes set on fulfilling goals, "f---in' b----es" and taps out moody and slow. He tackles the hot topic of abortion, has no issue addressing girlfriend troubles and gets introspective on a father who failed on his familial duties. Mid-album, an aggressive beat the rapper produced -- full of electronic blips and commotion that sounds oddly pleasant to the ears -- pops up, it's inspiration coming from "reading a rich person's magazine," says Cole.
Supporters will have to wait until 'Cole World: The Sideline Story' drops on Sept. 27 to find out song titles for new tracks and hear fresh lyrics, since his camp is adamant in keeping those on the hush. But of the roughly 30 works he chose from for this release, the LP features previously heard cuts 'In the Morning,' the Trey Songz-assisted 'Can't Get Enough,' 'Lost Ones,' 'Work Out' and 'Lights Please.' The latter is what scored him his Roc Nation deal and garnered interest from manager Mark Pitts, who Cole said, upon listening to the song accidentally for the first time, related it to "like a n---- smelled some food."
Being that J. Cole is signed to Jay-Z's label it comes as a surprise that none of the tracks heard feature the veteran MC. However, the younger lyricist is set on having Hov close out the album and show up on the final track. "If I was a fan of me," Cole continues, "I'd want to hear him on it." Collaborations throughout the effort are scarce but it's all a part of his master plan. One high-profile feature that is sure to get rap fans talking comes from a female artist who's been in the game for quite some time -- her name is being kept under wraps for now. Though she's known for her appealing rhymes, she sings on a record with a distinct '90s vibe. Her placement is a reminder that Cole continues to hold his own when matched with a masterful wordsmith. "It's gonna create such a moment because it's so left," Cole shares.
J. Cole was still recording and producing for the album as late as last week. Sequencing isn't set in stone and mixed versions of some songs has yet to occur. "I go and look back at tracklistings," Cole admits. "What did Kanye do? What did Drake do? What did these people do on projects we love?" A protean force with an album showcasing a tenacious spirit, his debut seems likely to serve in a similar fashion for those on the come-up.
'Cole World: The Sideline Story' enters the sonic landscape Sept. 27.