Moving from North Carolina to New York at 18 to pursue music, attending St. Johns University and then finding himself signed under Jay-Z at Roc Nation, rapper J. Cole tells of his beginnings in the industry.
Although the young rapper is far from the end of his story, there always comes a beginning because a star may be born, but that doesn’t mean that their light shines bright enough to be noticed and realized.
While on tour for The Blueprint III, J. Cole was able to speak with Sound Session Kube 93 and open up about his origins and what brought him into the rap game.
“My cousin came up from Louisiana and spent the summer with us. He was a little older so I looked up to him. He used to freestyle a little bit and he was really just joking around and he wasn’t really serious about it, but I thought he was serious about it and I was like ‘Ah man that’s dope, teach me how to do it.’ So he was just like it’s easy and I just started freestylin and I didn’t even know what I was talking about. Stupid stuff.”
First rapping like Master P, he switched his style and started blending with Tupac, Canibus, Eminem and Royce Da 5’ 9.” A rapper, however, is established through making their own trails and J.Cole would have to find a way to find his own voice instead of just mimicking everyone else.
“When I started actually recording songs because before it was just writing raps and rapping them in ciphers or wherever I could. Once I started recording, I recorded my first song at 15, then hearing myself back, I was loving it and it was just giving me more fuel. Before I’m just used to hearing other people and trying to emulate them, but now I’m hearing myself and seeing what else I can do and that’s when I really started to work on me.”
As an up-and-comer, the ferocity is essential in his climb to the top and the rapper acknowledges the hunger that comes out each and every time he lays out bars.
“It’s natural, but I do notice it when I hear it. It’s always been like that and that comes from the Royce’s and the Canibus, so Royce has a lot to do with that, in a sense, because I remember literally listening to Royce and being like, ‘Dang, he’s going hard. He’s killin it bar after bar.’ Those were the guys I was gravitating towards at the time.”
Cole also spoke on his college experience and how everything in life has a way of shaping a person and helping them further down his/her path. Fending for his own in New York, he would have to find a way to maintain and survive.
“Whether you leave high school and go to college or go to the army, whatever your phase or your path is will change you in some way, shape or form. Those bonds that you build with people, time away. I was talking to my father about the army and he was telling me about some of his experiences and it was a lot like school. Some of the people that you meet are going to be around forever. I basically had to become a man in New York in college. I had no family so I was really up there. I was in school and on my own so it shaped me. New relationships, new people, just a whole new perspective on life.”