Nas' 10th LP Life Is Good is an engaging listen from start to finish, but for J. Cole, there's one particular track on the Grammy-nominated album he just can't bear to play. That would be "Stay," the beat for which he desperately wanted for his debut, Cole World: The Sideline Story.
Earlier this month, the Roc Nation rapper shared five unreleased tracks on his Truly Yours EP, and one of them was his version of "Stay," originally recorded in 2009 during a session with No I.D.
Cole told MTV News that No I.D. was the first producer he ever got in the studio with, during what he called a "life-changing experience," just six months after signing his record deal with Jay-Z.
"We did the most incredible songs in one week. We did 'Not Too Late,' 'Stay,' 'Never Told' and a few more joints that haven't even come out yet," he explained. " 'Stay' was towards the end of the process — he just looped up this sample, and while he's looping up the sample, I'm writing the words, and before you know it, I have the song.
" 'Stay' was my favorite song that was absolutely going on my first album, but I guess I'll just chalk it up to my inexperience in the game," Cole added.
Cole, still new to industry, didn't realize that he had no claims to the beat until he actually paid for it. And by the time he'd made a decision, it was too late. "As time goes on, I'm not solidifying it, which basically means I'm not locking down the beat from No I.D. Long story short, I didn't buy that beat from No I.D., and Nas bought that beat," he said, clearly still remorseful. "He didn't even know I did a joint on it either. I don't even know if he knows, but I had that sh-- first."
When Cole finally reached out to No I.D for "Stay," he got this response: "Yo, Nas got that beat."
"That taught me a lesson real quick: If you want a record, you have to put some money down on it," he said. "Honestly, I heard Nas' joint one time, and I can't listen again. It's hard for me. It's rightfully his record, he put it out first, and he killed it too, but I can't listen."
Getting burned twice will really make that lesson stick, and he learned once again with a song that later appeared on Ross' Teflon Don album. "The same thing happened with 'Tears of Joy.' I smacked myself. That's two classics that was supposed to be mine," he said. "But 'Tears of Joy,' I couldn't have did what Ross did on that, because [I] was in a bad place. Me and No I.D. was in the studio, but the label was on me about some hits, so it was a bad session. I squeezed out a verse on 'Tears of Joy,' but I was not in a good place to do anything close to what Ross did on that. But I still smack myself about those."