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Q&A with J. Cole

05/04/2010
By:

Jon Moreno

Staff Writer

1.Was it tough tonight going out and other places to perform knowing that not everybody out there is familiar with your work yet?

Depends on the school. Tonight was like in the medium. There was a lot of people who did know it, but there was also a lot of people who were unfamiliar. Some shows are better, some shows are worse. It doesn’t make me mad or anything, I understand it’s a process. Five years ago, you couldn’t go out on stage even [if] you didn’t even have an album out, so I’m just blessed to be able to do shows.

2. You’re a new cat in the game who just happens to be signed with Jay-Z. Do you feel any sort of pressure to come through with a solid album or are you confident that your music will speak for itself once it’s out?

I feel like the music is gonna speak for itself. There is pressure but I believe in determining your own destiny. I don’t think like ‘Oh, man I’m signed to Jay. I’m gonna put out a classic album and more to come.’

3. Only two mix tapes out so far. I know you’re not trying to wear yourself thin, but are you afraid of losing buzz or hype by keeping the fans waiting for the album or do you have something prepared for us before the album? I heard titles like ‘Cole World’ and ‘The Blow Up’ floating around, any idea where the titles came from?

Ain’t one of those the title. ‘Cole World’ is just some shit I be saying. Neither of those are the title. As far as mixtapes, I believe in the days when an artist like Nas would put out an album and he wouldn’t come back for like two years but you still loved him and you wanted to see what he could do. It ain’t even been a year when I put out 22 songs. First, I was falling into the pressure like ‘Damn, I gotta put out a mixtape, the people are hungry’ but you want people to be hungry. That way when they finally do get it, they embrace it. I’d rather serve them a five-star meal when they haven’t ate for a while than give them a five-star meal when they just ate a four-star meal because if I drop a mixtape, it ain’t going to be whack, it’s going to be straight A. I don’t have throw aways. I cant do half-ass shit. I’d rather give them a five-star meal when they ain’t eat shit than give them a five-star meal when they just ate a four-star meal.

4. You graduated in 2007 from St. John’s University Magna Cum Laude. Hip-hop isn’t always too fond of college graduates who also rap because they feel they may lack a story to tell. Do you feel people will place you under a category or underrate your abilities just because you happen to have a degree? You mentioned Canibus as one of your favorites who also went to school and has proven lyrical skills, so you must feel a relation there.

Yeah, he was just one of my influences when I was real young. Thats who I was trying to rap like. But I don’t think it’s anything because I feel like people respect that more, it’s a different angle and its not like I went to college and I’m some corny shit. Niggas can still tell by the raps that I know a little bit about a lot. It’s not a problem.

5. You make your own beats and even once said you rap on ’99 percent J. Cole productions.’ Is that still the case for the album? I know you’re working with No ID but is that predominately it?

When I first got in with No ID, I thought I was going to have zero beats on the album, that’s how good his beats are. Honestly the biggest thing about No ID was that I learned from him. He gave me the key ingredients. I just talked to him today. I was like, ‘Yo, I feel like I’m a monster now.’ I had to thank him because I really soaked up a lot of game from him on the production side. Now I feel like I’m unstoppable.

6. When new artists drop their first album, they sometimes seem to have a lot of many features [of other artists] to help boost sales. Are there any features on the album or did you keep this one solely to yourself?

Right now, I only have one feature on it. And I’m still debating what I wanna do about it but something about it, I like the idea of not having nobody. Even Nas had AZ but for some reason I like the idea of not having nobody, but then I do like the idea because it gets songs a whole different look, but I don’t know. I’ll decide in the final hour.

7. You hustled to get yourself to this point in the game. You crashed parties, made shirts, made your own beats and moved to New York to name a few things that made you J. Cole today. What sort of advice do you have for up and coming artists who may not have the benefits of moving to a big city or something like that but still feel they have skills on the mic?

It can happen from wherever you at. There’s just two ingredients: you gotta believe and then you gotta work hard. I feel if one of those elements are missing, either one, then it’s not going to work. You can be the least talented artist in the world but if you believe and you work hard, you’re going to make it. I feel like those are the two ingredients.

8. It’s 2010 which means Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all that have blown up to a whole other level. What kind of effect do you feel the Internet has had in hip-hop?

I don’t use the Internet. I use it everyday, (um ok) I got the Twitter but I don’t use it as a promotional tool. I feel like it takes away from your appeal. People know too much about you, too much information on your likes and dislikes. The (rap) game is more realistic because everything you do is on the Internet now.

9. I asked the fans and they asked me to ask you to spit one line from the album that is your favorite and explain it’s importance.

*Pause as he thinks* I don’t know, man. I don’t have one in the top of my head. I do but its just so many songs going through my head….. nah. I got nothing (laughs).

10. Lastly, is the album still looking for a summer release?

Yeah. All depends how the single does and the next single. ‘Who Dat?’ is the official single. I like the song because I feel like it’s something the fans can brag about. We knew when we put it out, it’s not like a number one song. We weren’t aiming for the charts but it’s something that’ll get my core fan base excited and hopefully get me more fans overall. I feel like Jay-Z had a perfect single selection. From ‘Death of Auto-Tune’ to ‘Run This Town,’ it all led up to ‘Empire State of Mind’ perfectly. I want to kind of try to follow that, it’ll be ill, because ‘Death of Auto-Tune’ and even ‘Run This Town’ – people was like ‘I don’t know how its going to do,’ but it was all leading up to ‘Empire State of Mind’ and hit them hard. And I feel I got that same format.

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