Last night (Aug 17), VIBE had the privilege of previewing J. Cole’s forthcoming debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story. Roc Nation’s young prince personally played the album track by track, explaining the back stories and concepts behind each record. Admittedly, the North Carolina native was “nervous as hell” and “super intimidated” by the tight atmosphere in the tiny room at Roc The Mic studios in New York City. Cole World tells this young man’s story in detail, from his days as a struggling undergrad at St. John’s University to almost missing his first meeting with Jay-Z, due to an untimely run in with the law.
While the track names and lyrics were ordered to remain a secret, VIBE carefully took note of numerous key references that help give some insight into the mind of the heir to the Roc Throne.
1. J. Cole rehashes 2Pac’s opening verse from “Changes.” On “track 2,” Cole can be heard reworking Pac’s famous line: “Wake up in the morning and I ask myself. Is life worth living, should I blast myself?”
2. “Sample from the cult classic movie Backstage” – Released in 2000, the flick documents the Hard Knock Life Tour, which featured Roc-A-Fella, Ruff Ryders, Murder Inc, Redman & Method Man and more. The audio clip features Jay-Z talking figurately about the next rap star he hopes to sign one day...fast forward to J.Cole.
3. Cole references pushing his mom’s beat up Honda Civic as a teenager. Something kids from every city in America can relate to. The hand-me-down, first-car translates in any neighborhood across the map.
4. “The 2Pac sleeping with Madonna rumor” – As a true 80s-baby, 2Pac undoubtedly was more of a God than rapper to many young hip-hop fiends such as Cole. Even with lots of holes and added gusto to this infamous rumor, the very thought that Pac was G enough to bag Madonna helped his legend grow to even bigger proportions.
5. “Drug addiction” – Like so many others, Cole raps about a parent addict. While he hasn’t been the most vocal about the situation, Cole World finds Jermaine putting real life situations that made him stronger on wax. We’ll need a closer listen to determine if he’s talking about his own fam.
6. Just like Drake, Cole loves 90s R&B. From his melodies to style of production, artists like Aaliyah played a part in his musical upbringing. We definitely recall the hook to Mariah Carey and Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony’s classic record “Breakdown” getting a rebirth on the album.
7. The 48-hours following J. Cole finding out Jay-Z wanted to meet him could be made into a movie itself. Young Simba recalls the story of being pulled over and arrested for past driving violations minutes after getting the big news. Pay your tickets, kids.
8. “Lebron vs. Jordan” – Being a sports fanatic is evident in Cole’s rhymes. But the ultimate match up between one of the best of all time versus the new young gun is the story of his rap career.
9. Just like Cole said on “Villematic,”…”R&B bitches want me that was just dreams before,” the new found fame of the rap star life was just a dream for this small town boy. His latest video shoot for “Can’t Get Enough (feat. Trey Songz)” (also features a cameo from Rihanna) is documented on his debut.
10. “Richard Pryor sample” – An inspiration for so many great comics after him, Richard Pryor set the blueprint for dudes like Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and countless other. Just as he pays homage to the greats in rap and sports, one of the comedic GOATs gets his just due here.