[artist id="3216320"]J. Cole[/artist] has had his whole life to make his first album, and for Cole World: The Sideline Story, the Roc Nation rookie draws on a combination of his past failures and victories to tell his tale.
A select number of writers were invited to Roc the Mic studios in Manhattan on Wednesday night to hear the North Carolina MC's debut, which is due out September 27. Though the album is almost complete, the guests were asked not to report any song titles or lyrics because they are still subject to change.
In many ways, Cole feels like an underdog, and on Cole World, he raps as if he may never get another shot. In a wrap-up speech delivered to his guests, he even compared himself to the character Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger from the 1993 film "Rudy." In the movie, Rudy dreamed of playing football at the University of Notre Dame but faced immeasurable odds due to his small frame and lack of natural ability. It isn't until the waning moments of the final game that Rudy is allowed to suit up and achieve his dream.
Familiar previously released songs like "Work Out," the Drake-assisted "In the Morning" and "Lights Please" anchor the album, which revolves around heartbreak, triumph and good old-fashioned storytelling.
On one gut-wrenching track, which Cole produced himself, the rapper strikes a chord when trying to convince his pregnant girlfriend to abort their child. In the song's second verse, he switches roles and rhymes as if he is a pregnant woman — singing in a higher pitch for effect. J revealed to the room that this song in particular had been completed even before he signed with Jigga in 2009. In fact, four of the album's songs were holdovers from his early days.
Cole produced most of the LP himself, though Danjahandz and NO I.D. both contributed.
Although Drake appears on "In the Morning" and Trey Songz sings the hook on the album's next single "Can't Get Enough," the record is light on featured guests. But what about Hov? One of the big questions surrounding the album has been whether Cole secured a featured verse from Jay-Z. The answer is no — well at least not yet. As of now, the rapper has until August 20 to turn his album in, so there is still hope for a last-minute collaboration from the God MC.
If Jay does decide to lend his bars to Cole World, the rapper already has a track set aside — he's actually left the third verse open just in case. If not, Cole doesn't feel slighted but motivated. "Nobody owes me anything," he told the crowd. "Jay-Z doesn't owe me a verse because I signed to him."
No, Jay has given J. Cole something much greater: a chance to make his dreams a reality when the album is released on September 27. The guest verse is merely a bonus.