Jay-Z’s latest protégé, J. Cole, has dropped two impressive mixtapes in The Come Up and The Warm Up, but the North Carolina product really landed on the radar of most fans last year, after taking a guest turn on his boss’ The Blueprint 3 album.
But while “A Star Is Born,” their No ID-produced collabo, may have introduced Cole to the masses, the rookie rapper has developed a habit of heating up other MCs’ tracks. Since spitting alongside Jay-Z, Cole has featured on songs by Talib Kweli, Wale and Roc-A-Fella alum Young Chris, among others. And the Roc Nation breakout artist is still working on his yet-untitled debut album, slated to drop later this year. MTV News asked J. Cole about his guest appearances. Here, he narrows down his standout top three.
Wale’s “Beautiful Bliss” (featuring J. Cole and Melanie Fiona)
“I really just signed the deal [with Roc Nation] and a couple months after, maybe even not that long, a situation came up where Wale had that song already and they were interested in getting me on it,” Cole explained of what was supposed to be his first feature.
“I didn’t hear his verses, though, I just got sent the beat and I was thinking at the time, ‘This is my first feature.’ This is before [I did] “A Star Is Born.” I got to really go in. But mind you, I hadn’t heard his verses — all I got was the beat and the hook and the concept of the song. So I said, ‘Let me make a statement, this is gonna be my first one.’ So I knew when I was writing it, I was like, ‘This is just one of those verses.’ And when I was laying it down, [I got] the same kind of feeling: I think I got one. If Wale’s album dropped when it was supposed to, that would have been my first feature.”
Reflection Eternal’s “Just Begun” (featuring J. Cole, Jay Electronica and Mos Def)
“I just got a text from out the blue from a number I didn’t recognize,” Cole recalled. ” ‘Yo, this is Talib Kweli, I got your number from 9th Wonder, I got this record, me, Jay Electronica and Mos Def.’ You know, wanting to know if I wanted to get on it. I was double-checking my phone, like, ‘Is this serious?’ He sent it to me, and at the time it was his and Jay Electronica’s verse on it. [Eventually] there was two legends on it and one upcoming person like me, who is destroying the game, so I thought, ‘I got to come with it.’ In writing that verse, I started a verse and probably stopped after two bars. I was going to try to take it deeper and more poetic.
Because I was on a song with Kweli, Jay Electronica and Mos Def, I got to really be saying something. But when I started writing it, it felt forced. I was like, ‘Nah, don’t do it.’ I felt like the song could use a bit of ignorance or new energy. I didn’t want to fall into that mold, even though I could do it, maybe not as good as they can. So I said, ‘Lemme try to stand out on this song.’ And I’m not gonna crush these guys, but I can at least come with something different, and I think that’s why people like it, like, ‘Who is this kid?’ ”
Young Chris’ “Still the Hottest” (featuring J. Cole)
“I did the beat and the verse when I caught wind my ‘A Star Is Born’ verse wasn’t gonna make The Blueprint 3,” Cole revealed. “I think No ID told me, he didn’t know if Jay-Z was gonna keep it, cause he was working with him, and Jay was figuring out his album. So I tried to scramble and hit Jay with something and maybe make the album in a different kind of way. So I did the beat and I came up with that verse [about the Roc legacy] and tried to get it on there. It was a far-fetched dream. [Laughs]. So I said, ‘Let me send it to Young Chris or Wale.’ I didn’t even know Chris did it [at first], he just put it out. But I was working on it awhile ago, and Chris killed it.”
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