I had the pleasure of interviewing Roc Nation’s first signee, J. Cole. Not only was he extremely humble, he also had some great stories about his first semi-meeting with the boss man Jay-Z. I’m sure it’s funny looking back now, but at the time it had to be devastating.
“I was working at a job, I was telemarketing for a really small newspaper in Queens… you know that Kanye line where he was like ‘if I could just get one beat on Hova we could get up off this cheap ass sofa,’ that was my life. I had a shirt that said ‘Produce for Jay-Z or die trying.’”
Inspiration struck the young producer/rapper and J. Cole went home one day to make a beat cd for the American Gangster soundtrack, figuring that Hova was still working on some music for it. He came up with the perfect beat, with a hook and everything, called “Top of the World.” Confident that Jay would fall in love with it and his dreams would come true, J. Cole proceeded to sit outside Baseline Studio wearing his special t-shirt with a bottle, and a beat cd. To add to the drama, it started raining.
“Jay gets out of the car, walks up to the building and I’m like trying to build up the nerve to go up to him with the cd after I waited all that time in the rain… I don’t even think he said what is this, he mighta looked at it and he was like ‘I don’t want this.’”
Below, J. Cole tells the story in his own words:
It wasn’t, however, that beat that got Jay’s attention. J. Cole continues his story and then lets us hear the actual ‘Top of the World’ beat off his laptop while he rhymes over it.
“We really had fantasies that he would go upstairs, listen, and then come right back or send somebody down like ‘Go get that kid!’”
So what did end up getting J. Cole signed to Roc Nation? “Jay ended up, there was a lot of industry people that were hearing my stuff and falling in love but it was person by person, I had to turn these guys into believers… somebody got it to somebody who got it to Jay and when he ended up playing this song I got called ‘Lights Please’ that’s the only song he really heard, he was like ‘Yo set up the meeting bring him in.’”