It's tough living in Jay-Z's shadow. Just ask J. Cole, Roc Nation's newest MC. Many argue the North Carolina rapper could be set to follow in his label head's illustrious footsteps.
Right now, though, he's not receiving much special treatment. At press time, the MC was still awaiting Jay-Z's verse for his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story, slated to hit shelves on September 27th.
"No Jay-Z verse as we sit here and talk, so I don't know if he's just fucking with me or…" Cole told Rolling Stone. "But I've already mentally prepared myself, like 'If it doesn't happen, it's all good.'"
Earlier this year, Cole claimed that he'd crafted the perfect song for him and his mentor, a duet to follow "A Star Is Born" from Jay's own 2009 The Blueprint 3 LP.
"The song I have for Jay really goes with the concept of my album The Sideline Story so perfectly, right?" Cole says. "Jay is a coach figure, and I'm on the bench looking for that nod, like 'Yo, it's your time to come in the game.' It's damn near poetic that it's come down to the wire.
"If he does it, it's cool, and if he doesn't, I'm not going to cry about it. I've never been the type to rely on anyone for something. It would be a big statement to have him as the only feature on Cole World, but do I need that feature to sell records or feel validated? No, I'm very confident in what I've created."
What the MC, born Jermaine Lamarr Cole, has created is a solid fan base, and he's rewarding them each week with his "Any Given Sunday" music campaign. Since July 31th, the rapper has dropped songs like "Bring Em' In" each Sunday through his website, JColeMusic.com, and UStream.
"I wanted to do a mixtape, but I decided against it because it was so close to my album's release," Cole explains. "I didn't want fans to become confused and not have enough time to digest the album, so each week, I put out new songs and also catch people up on older material. It keeps my fans excited, with new material and videos leading up to the album."
Cole recently kicked off Heineken's national Red Star Access tour at New York's Bowery Ballroom, where he performed his upcoming single "Can't Get Enough" featuring Trey Songz. As Cole introduced the track, he gushed about how amazing it was to shoot the song's video in Barbados. Bikini-clad models aside, it's hard not to wonder why Hov seems intent on making J. Cole work for every scrap.
"You have to ask Jay-Z," J Cole says. "I've got thick skin. That's one of my best traits. Even if I feel a certain way about something, I'm very good at eating it. It just makes me hungrier. I got a real point to prove. I'm not some poor welfare child whose father doesn't love him. I'm controlling my own destiny, and I appreciate Jay-Z for the opportunity."