How much is a quote worth? It’s a question journalists wrestle with constantly; chasing sources, coaxing cooperation, staying up past any reasonable bedtime. It’s worth it because quotes are the essence of a story, the subject speaking for themselves, but what good are they to a rap fan?
An album is tangible, a concert is visceral; these things have accepted, agreed upon values. But a sit down interview with a rapper doesn’t. Tickets for Elliott Wilson’s latest CRWN interview with J. Cole were priced at $17, a cost that Cole’s loyal fan base took no issue with.
The North Carolina rapper didn’t emerge onto the Highline Ballroom stage until 1 a.m., but the sold out crowd was attentively in his palm. At one point, Wilson asked how he’s about to stay so connected with his fans despite such a low social media presence, the barometer for modern day fan-artist relations.
“[Rappers] think that by telling you their everyday movements, that they’re being more personal, when in reality I think the reason why everybody in here feels like they know me is because I’m giving you myself in the music.”
That’s the bankability that makes an evening and event like this possible; an artist whose fan base cares about those quotes, regardless of how they’re delivered. Fans who are content when Cole divulges little to nothing about his upcoming album, Born Sinner, who are simply looking for an invitation into the man’s mind. And maybe a chance to shout out “Cole World” spontaneously.
Below are excerpts from the sit down, but be sure to check out the full video interview, once it’s published, for full explanations and stories.
On why he’s not trying to top any previous project: “To some people here, you’re not going to be able to recreate that moment of when you heard somebody saying this shit and it touched you. That newness, you can’t get that back…. I’m not trying to top, because I could never recreate that moment, but I’m going to make new classics.”
On learning to work with Jay-Z and Mark Pitts more comfortably: ”I wasn’t just taking advice, I was looking for approval. And as an artist that is the worst thing you can ever do.”
That Born Sinner has no rap features: ”Nobody is rapping on the album but J. Cole… It is a statement that’s being made, but that wasn’t the intention. It just happened like that…People buy albums because they love the artist, not because the artist they love is on a song.”
On developing as a producer: ”Because I rap at a very high caliber, people forgetting that I’m actually doing the beats…I wasn’t broadcasting enough and I wasn’t self-promoting…So I learn from the No ID’s. I got in with Danjahandz, I get in with Timbaland, Pharrell. I get in with people as a rapper and they don’t know I’m taking notes as a producer. I’m really picking up so many secrets.”
On squaring off with Kanye on June 18th: ”Only think you can compare on paper is numbers. It’s beyond something that’s measurable with numbers… For me, I already won. I did the album I wanted.”
On considering himself peers with Kanye and others: ”There was a point in time when they seemed so far from me, even though I believed in my talent, but they seemed so far away, like they were so good. And it’s reached a level where now everybody feels like my competition. It no longer feels like the things that they do are out of my reach. I know that what I bring to the table is just as special. Maybe the world don’t know, but I believe now.”