Exclusive Interview with J. Cole

November 8, 2010

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

Roc Nation recording artist J. Cole knows a thing or two about the college life. It wasn’t that long ago that he was a “college boy” himself. He graduated from St. John’s University Magna Cum Laude on an academic scholarship in 2007 before eventually meeting Jay-Z and becoming the first artist signed to the legend’s new record label.

J. Cole was initially shunned by Jay-Z. But with a little ambition and dedication to his craft, he stayed persistent and eventually won him over. He’s now one of hip-hop’s hottest up and coming artists. On Saturday, Nov. 6, the North Carolina native made a stop in Kalamazoo to perform for the college students at Western Michigan University in Miller Auditorium. Before his show began, J. Cole had a few things to say about performing in Michigan, pressures to succeed and working with Jay-Z.

Eric Woodyard: Can you talk about how everything came about with you deciding to do a concert at Western Michigan University?

J.Cole: A tour was put together for me, and then I guess Western Michigan was interested in booking me luckily. That’s all I really know. I don’t really know the specifics because I don’t handle my bookings but I’m glad to be there. Every time I come to Michigan they show me a lot of love and hopefully this will be no different.

EW: How important do you think it is for you to tackle the college audience? Especially with your album in the works…

JC: Aw man, I think the college audience is really probably one of my most important [audiences] because I seen two artists, when I was in college, blow up like right before my eyes really, right in college and they just happened to be some of my favorite rappers. Like Kanye [West] and I think it had a lot to do with his college following. And then Lil Wayne too, because you got so many people from all around the country and they all rally around this one artist, and when they go home they spread the gossip about how good they think he is, so I think college is super duper important.

EW: Can you talk about your college experience a little bit? I know you graduated from St. John’s University, right? Do you have any wild stories?

JC: I ain’t got no crazy stories, but I had a real good time and I truly enjoyed my college experience. I wouldn’t change nothing about that. I love school and school was real fun, and it was a real good experience for me.

EW: With so many rising artists like Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa, how much of a challenge do you feel it is to separate yourself from the pack and bring something new to the table?

JC: I feel like if I just continue to be myself then the difference will show. You know, all these guys are super talented, but all our stories are different and we got different things to say so I mean, as long as I stay true to myself and not try to be like anybody else I feel like the difference between us will shine.

EW: Do you feel any pressure to make and produce hot music, especially with Jay-Z in your corner and being the first artist signed to Roc Nation?

JC: Yeah, I feel pressured just from my high expectations of myself and just the things I want from myself and out of my career, so that’s the kind of pressure I feel. You know, it’s a good pressure.

EW: How is it working with Jay-Z?

JC: Man, it’s incredible! Like sometimes I gotta pinch myself, you know what I’m saying? Then realize like if I’m sitting in a room with him and we just talking then I gotta step out of the conversation and have a out-of-body experience and just realize that I’m sitting in a room with the greatest rapper of all time arguably. So it’s an incredible experience.

EW: Is there one thing that you learned about him that really shocked you?

JC: Nothing really shocked me. It’s just funny because you can just tell he really is still who he was when he came in. Of course he’s grown so much and he’s older, but every now and then you can just see the real Brooklyn in him you know what I’m saying? You will see that side of him. Just through like, conversation or whatever, it just will come out, and he’s funny as hell to watch.

EW: You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists, what would you say your favorite collaboration was out of all of them?

JC: My favorite collaboration was with probably Miguel, I love the Miguel song. So yeah, probably the Miguel song from this year because it’s such a great song.

EW: How far along is your solo project? Is it still gonna be called “Cole World?”

JC: Nah, we not calling it “Cole World.” We should put the title out soon but I’m practically finished, man. I’m gonna go back there in early December for about three weeks to finish it all the way up.

EW: So you’re looking to drop it early next year?

JC: Yeah, probably like February or March and put out the single towards Thanksgiving and then we outta there.

EW: What are your ultimate goals as an artist?

JC: I would like to just be around for a long time and just be on top for a long time. Once I get to the top I don’t plan on ever letting it go. So like Jay was one of the only ones to really successfully accomplish that, and Eminem too to a degree, and Kanye helped maintain that and I just want to be like one of those guys like once I get to the top, I will never let up. That type of thing and that’s where I really wanna be five years from now.

EW: What should Western Michigan University expect from J. Cole tonight? Last year Big Sean did his thing but what is J. Cole gonna bring new to us this year?

JC: Tonight I’m not even gonna have the band so I’m taking it back to the old school J. Cole shows and performances with two turn tables and a mic so it’s a lot of real good-a– raps and I try to give my all to the crowd and really give them a lot of my personality. I think when people come to the shows, they want to do more than just rap along with your songs, they want to like really feel your personality and feel your energy and I’m gonna try to give a lot of that. So I hope they show me some love.

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4 Responses to “Exclusive Interview with J. Cole”

  1. carlos collins said

    Great interview ! ! So the great eric woodyard doesn’t just do sports ?! Thass wass up ! ! I been plannin on buyin his album. I saw a couple of videos with him rappin. He wqsnt talkin about his chain and his bently and all that BS ! All the stuff that turned me off to rap. He was flowin. I’m gonna pick it up today. Great interview !

    • Eric Woodyard said

      good lookin cuz! he is gonna be big time real soon…he got a new mixtape that’s gonna drop this Friday called “Friday Night Lights”

  2. Curtis G. said

    Good job man. Thos were very informational questions. J cole mad me a fan this weekend. Keep it going

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