It’s VMA weekend — so many parties popping off in NYC over the next three days. If you’re not in town, get your plane ticket! One of the big presenters at Sunday’s Video Music Awards, 50 Cent, told us whether he told off Jay-Z. Then, we have Jay’s new find, J.Cole. Cole is originally from North Carolina but moved to Queens, NY, for college and his shot at the music big time. Appearing on Hov’s Blueprint 3, on “A Star Is Born,” has him off to a tremendous start.
Streets Is Talking: News and Notes From the Underground
No (lyrical) shots fired. Everyone wanted to know if 50 Cent was trying to dis Jay-Z on his new mixtape track “Flight 187.” The G-Unit mastermind spoke to us exclusively and said there’s no beef, just observation.
“It was the glasses,” 50 explained about why he compared Hov to sitcom character Steve Urkel. “They saw the glasses. I didn’t Photoshop glasses on him. I think Jay is really conscious of his actual moves. He does those things to make a statement in different ways to create clarity that he doesn’t have to be the way people want him to be. He can do what he wants. But [I wrote the song] out of the perspective of me mentioning things I thought were interesting.”
Fif also noted that he mentioned Britney Spears and even members of his own musical family on the song, but everyone gravitated toward the Hov line because Blueprint 3 has a huge buzz.
“I even wrote, ’Em made me a star and Dre is taking a long time to mix my records. I gotta talk to Jimmy [Iovine] about it.’ I wrote about Britney Spears. I said a lot of interesting things on the record, but they focus on Jay because his album is releasing. Of course, with those marketing dollars being spent, he’s the focus. The new XXL, there’s about 40 pages of Jay-Z on there. That boy is serious when it comes to his [album] layout. … When it comes time for him to have companies market and promote him as a brand, he does a great job.”
Fire Starter: J. Cole
North Carolina rapper J.Cole’s life isn’t as charmed as you might think. At least not yet, that is.
Yeah, he’s the first rapper signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, a deal that will see him deliver his debut album sometime next year through Columbia Records. And yeah, he appears on Jay-Z’s recently released The Blueprint 3, on the not-so-subtle track titled “A Star Is Born.”
But when the two MCs collaborated on that track, it was actually the first time Cole, 24, was in the studio with the celebrated superstar and his boss. He got the call that Hov was interested in him rhyming on the track, but Cole mistakenly thought Jay found a track for him; it wasn’t until a few days before that it was cleared up. By the time he got to the studio, knowing what he was heading there for, he had a few jitters about working with Jay, and then he looked up to see Beyoncé there. Talk about freshman hazing.
“[Jay-Z] was on the couch at first, right there,” Cole told Mixtape Daily about the experience. “It was the first time I was in the studio with Jay. And Beyoncé was there, to make it 10 times worse. Half my thoughts are trying to think of a verse, and then Jay-Z is there watching you write a verse. So I’m soaking it up.”
After taking it all in, though, Cole calmly put together his own star-making 16 bars, which resulted in the big homie responding with a resounding, “Oooooooh.” It’s a response J. Cole’s been hearing from Young a lot lately and made famous from Kanye West’s “Last Call.” The first time Cole said he heard it was when Jay-Z listened to his track “Lights Please,” from Cole’s second mixtape, The Warm Up. That project was released in May, after he inked with Roc Nation. But when J.Cole stepped in the booth to become a part of the Blueprint trilogy’s history, his buzz from the second tape hadn’t really set in. Jay, though, was banking on the young upstart.
“I think the title [of the song] and the feature really says more than even what the song is saying,” Cole explained. ” ’Cause in the song, he’s passing the torch in terms of letting me get the last verse. But he’s not saying, ’Get ’em, J.’ or anything like that. So the title says what the song can’t even say. I mean, to list all the names he names, all the greats [in his lyrics]. Even the cats that came and went. And to get on that with no history in the game, I got to add a fresh perspective.”
Cole is definitely a part of the fresh wave of new MCs, including Drake, Asher Roth and Wale. Born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, as Jermaine Cole, the rapper moved to New York to attend St. John’s University in Queens and pursue his music career. He grew up around a military town, and his parents and stepfather served in the armed forces. But Cole ended up earning a communications degree instead, even though he wasn’t planning on it.
He thought after a couple years, he’d have a deal and had to take a few telemarketing jobs to make do after graduation. He started rapping back when he was 12 in North Carolina, and by 15, he convinced his mom to buy him an ASR beat machine. “That symbolized the end of my hoop dreams,” said the avid basketball fan; he’s carrying a ball with him on the cover of The Warm Up. Cole then ended up teaching himself how to make beats after a local producer named Nervous Wreck from a group called Bomb Shelter took him under his wing.
In New York, after his sophomore year, he focused on his career with more zeal, and in 2007, he put out his first mixtape: The Come Up. He’s been recording serious material ever since. He said he’s sitting on about 10 songs that he hopes to either include on his album or hold onto for important projects in the future. One of those songs is “Lights Please,” which he’s released to DJs, along with “Grown Simba,” although he said neither are official singles.
Recently, Cole has been in the studio with No ID, but he hopes to produce the majority of the album himself, he said. He just started working on his debut last week, making the transition from just hitting the studio to going there with a new purpose. He knows there’s a lot of expectations riding on the project, particularly because a lot of people will be scrutinizing him more due to the Jay-Z co-sign.
But if that’s the first impression people have, he’s fine with it — so long as the second impression he makes is that he was worthy of the deal.
“I just want people to comment the talent, if that’s the second thing they comment on, then say, ’Oh, the crazy-ass rapper that produces he own sh–,’ ” Cole said. “Until that overtakes the first thing, being, ’Oh, is that the kid Jay-Z signed?’ I got to accept that until I change it.”
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