"I'm mad nervous," J. Cole confessed in the first of two listening sessions for his upcoming LP, "Cole World: The Sideline Story," due Sept. 27. Those in attendance and attentive were Roc Nation publicists Jana Fleishman, also publicist to Jay-Z, and Megan Miller, Roc Nation's new media marketing manager Aura Harewood, Columbia Records/Sony Music publicist Mike Navarra and writers such as Jayson Rodriguez of XXL, Georgette Cline of AOL, Kathy Iandoli of HipHopDX, Mikey Fresh of Vibe and others.
"Blast off. It's all about you," Fleishman cued Cole.
"Where D. Dot at, man?" J. Cole joked, referring to a blogger who allegedly posted snippets of "Watch the Throne," recorded at the Hayden Planetarium listening session of Kanye West and Jay-Z's "Watch the Throne." (No phones or cameras were allowed at this session.) Once the laughs died down, J. Cole pressed play, premiering his nearly finished debut album to a select few.
Three tracks in, J. Cole shared details on the impact "Lights Please" had on his Roc Nation signing. "Lights Please," initially featured on his first mixtape, "The Warm Up" is to appear on "Cole World." "Lights Please" caught the attention of manager Mark Pitts, CEO of Bystorm Entertainment, when he was on his way out of the office. "It's like I smelled some food," Cole recalls Pitts saying when heard his assistant, Kirk Lightburn, played "Lights Please."
Cole continued to say that he was quickly signed to Roc Nation after Jay-Z, himself heard "Lights Please," soon after Pitts had. Cole included a snippet of his first interview from March 2009, in which he tells DJ Green Lantern how he was pulled over and arrested seconds after finding out, via text message, that Jay had brought him on board.
The predominantely self-produced, "Sideline Story" showcases J. Cole's incisive lyricism, reminiscent of his "Warm Up" mixtape. "Cole World" infuses a variety of audible treats such as dubstep and '90s R&B thanks to a surprise feature guest. "Sounds like some Aaliyah sh--," Cole said of the hook.
Mid way through one of the many self-produced tracks of the album, two thirds of J. Cole's management team, Julius Garcia, Wayne Barrow, president of Bystorm Entertainment, walked through the door. After listening to roughly 16 tracks, chosen from 30, J. Cole answered a few questions, one being if and when Jay-Z would turn over the verse that Cole has been waiting for him to lace the last track of the album with.
"Your guess is as good as mine," J. Cole answered.