(Photo: Courtesy YRB Magazine)
J. Cole continues to shock the world. The past few days have been huge for the North Carolina underdog-turned-star. Not only did he snag a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, but his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, was recently certified gold. In a recent cover story for YRB magazine, J. Cole talked about his unexpected success and his plans for the future.
J. Cole said that his album is opening doors for other artists who focus on substance and lyricism over blatant commercial appeal. “I feel like because this album wins, then hip hop and the future win. And all these other artists who are coming out now and are actually talking about real things and got musical substance will win, too,” says Cole. “Nobody knew that that type of music could be successful, commercially. I feel like if you can balance being successful and remaining yourself, you’ll be the artist that you want to be.”
But despite his newfound stardom, Cole insisted that he had higher goals and bigger plans. “I feel like I am officially in the game, but I also feel like I’m not where I want to be. I’m far from it. I got a lot more things to do. I got a lot more respect to get,” he said. “Kanye [West] and Jay-Z are doing arenas. I got a long way to go before I can do an arena. I want to perform in an arena or stadium one day, depending on how big this thing gets. An arena? That’s 20,000 people coming to see you. To do a tour of arenas and then headlining that? That’s incredible. So I’ve got a long way to go. I know I got a long way to go.”
Cole also talked about what's next for his career, revealing that he's already working on new material and discussing his long-rumored collaborative project with Kendrick Lamar. “It’s so early on. But I could put out a second album right now,” he says. “I have that many songs, but of course, it’s not that simple. You really want to make a body of work. I’m saying all of this to say, I’m staying away from talking it up too early. I’m just really trying to get my direction right now. I’m making beats, I’m writing rhymes. I’m not sure what it’s going to sound like. It could be totally different from this album, or it could be a continuation. I’m not sure. But I’m working and building ... “I just want my albums to improve and I just always want to keep up the quality. I want the next album to kill this album, and I want the album after that to kill that one."
Cole revealed that he and Kendrick Lamar haven't worked together since Cole produced “HiiiPoWeR” for the Compton rapper's Section.80 album. However, he said they did discuss flying out to London to work together on their collaborative LP for a week, and remains hopeful that they'll be able to get the anticipated project done. “At the end of the day, you’re dealing with two solo artists who are on the move all the time,” he said. “At some point, you’ve got to connect. I think it will happen.”
But whatever is next for J. Cole, he said he's in it for the music above all — not the money, the Grammys or the fame. “Of course, I want to do big numbers, but my focus is not on numbers," he said. "My focus is on the album. Like, how good can I make this album? Can I change the game musically? How can I come back and shock the game for real? I went through so many hoops of fire just to get this album out. I had to go through a lot of red tape and shit, but this [next] album, nobody can’t tell me nothing. I’m excited about that freedom.”
So are we.
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