With his debut album seemingly headed towards a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200, J. Cole is already hard at work -- and, he says, well along -- with its follow-up.
"I'm trying to do nine months, be back in nine months with the next album," Cole tells Billboard.com, adding that he's "already tracking the second album. I've got the foundation of songs that I'm gonna put on it already, so it's just a matter of taking these songs to the next level." Cole, who hits the road starting October 4 to promote "Cole World: The Sideline Story," has set up a studio in his tour bus to continue working on the sophomore set and expects to come up with more new material even as he hones the existing songs.
"It depends on my zone," explains the German-born, North Carolina-based rapper, songwriter and producer, whose second "Cole World" single, "Can't Get Enough," features Trey Songz. "There are days I can't write much, and I've got days where I can go on and on. When I'm at my best, yeah, it flows out; when I'm at my worst, it's gonna take awhile. That's just how it goes."
But since it took him awhile to get "Cole World" out in the first place, Cole is happy to just be making music for mass audience consumption at all. Signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation empire four years ago (he appears on "The Blueprint 3"), Cole released three mixtapes, made a variety of guest appearances and did quite a bit of touring while honing "Cole World" into its current shape.
"It was stressful," Cole says of the wait, "but it taught me a lot about not just patience but (about) working harder. It's not like I just sat around waiting for the album to come out. I was working. I was like, 'Man, if I'm doing something that's not working, let me do what works.' So it taught me a lot about patience and work ethic, and I'm just a better artist because of it. I'm a better performer now 'cause I had to tour so much. And I'm a smarter artist, a better producer because of all that work."
And, Cole adds, he's still managed to accumulate a body of work that made J. Cole a known commodity well before "Cole World" dropped. "It gave me a real foundation," he says. "It's not that I'm not a hitmaker; I have 'em, but it's just that the artistry overpowers that at this point in my career. I'm selling albums right now basically off of fan support and how they view me as an artist more than just having one big radio hit that came out. Hopefully it'll always be that way."
But Cole says he was careful while making "Cole World" not to sound too cocky about his ascent. "Even though I've been touring and I'm making money now and the struggle is not the same, I didn't want to get away from that element of my story yet," he explains. "I didn't want to start talking about the success part yet. I guess I wanted to almost close that chapter with the first album but still make sure I told that story, because I felt it was an important story to tell. And I can talk about the (success) next time -- hopefully."
Cole tours the U.S. until Oct. 25, then heads to the U.K. for dates on his own and with Tinie Tempah, followed by a European swing that wraps Dec. 12 in Paris.