From left: Billboard.com editorial assistant Jason Lipshutz; Roc Nation publicist Jana Fleishman; J. Cole; Billboard associate editor Erika Ramirez (Photo: Matt Campbell) /WireImage)
North Carolina rapper J. Cole previewed his long-awaited debut album, "Cole World: The Sideline Story," during a listening session at Santos Party House in New York on Monday night.
Sitting onstage behind a laptop, the MC played tracks like the somber "Breakdown," the sensual "In the Morning" and "Mr. Nice Watch," a long-rumored collaboration with Jay-Z. Cole's entourage as well as RapRadar's Elliott Wilson could be seen onstage behind the rapper, nodding along and mouthing the words to "Watch."
"This is the first project I've released -- from [mixtapes like] 'The Warm Up,' 'Friday Night Lights' and 'The Come Up' -- that I myself can play front-to-back and not skip one song. And that's coming from the n---a who did the songs!" the rapper (real name: Jermaine Cole) told the crowd of "Cole World," which has been in the works since 2007.
On the morning after the show, Cole stopped by Billboard's New York production studio for an on-camera discussion about the album, which is due out Sept. 27. Fortunately, the chat didn't involve much movement -- Cole recently sprained his left ankle while playing a game of pick-up basketball, and has to walk with a pair of crutches.