Roc Nation’s hip hop artist, Jermaine Cole, internationally known as J. Cole to his dedicated fans, performed Thursday evening – as a part of “The Sideline Story” tour – in Bloomsburg University’s Nelson Field House. While traveling from city to city and performing at different campuses with his talented band (a guitarist, drummer, two pianists) and DJ Dummy, J. Cole consistently keeps an accurate and inspirational stage presence. He has sold more than 200,000 copies of his debut album “Cole World: The Sideline Story” solely in the first week, with three other successful mix tapes underneath his belt. The Grammy nominated rapper, producer, writer, college graduate and alley hoop worthy basketball player is sure to stand by his motto: “My story ain’t the only one I’m tryna tell.”
With the sincere help of his management team, I was able to conduct a brief ten minute interview with J. Cole post-show. As I chatted with the musicians and his friends on the bus, the man of the hour finally arrived. “I apologize, I was back there grubbing on some hot wings,” he said jokingly. By this time, he was relaxed; hence the black Jordan sweatshirt and blue ball shorts. This interview was far from structured. We sat on his tour bus couch and began to talk.
When did you develop your passion for music?
“I was always a fan of music. My mom said I used to always sing the hottest songs. I remember first liking Michael Jackson and Bobby Brown – shout out to Bobby. It’s also an honor to be able to associate and work with Jay Z.”
Two hours before the show, J. Cole warmed up with a brief game of basketball. While practicing his jump shot and layup, the BU event staff, technical crew and concert committee continued to organize the stage and lighting. Outside waited a long line of excited fans. By 6:45 p.m., the doors opened. Cole was now backstage, mentally preparing himself for the show. As t-shirts were sold and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was served, the gym filled up almost instantly. Current BU students, alumni and fans from the surrounding areas were more than anxious to see their favorite artist perform – an artist with a story quite similar to theirs.
Tell me a little bit about your college years at St. John’s University…
“Man, it was the best; I want go back right now. I’m coming from Fayetteville, North Carolina going to New York City; a small town to the biggest city. I never had any girls in my neighborhood growing up but there were girls right in the same building and the next floor. I started out as a Computer Science major and realized that wasn’t for me, so then I switched to Communications.”
How did you balance your talent in music and school?
“I’ve always been good at juggling things. Even in high school, I was doing music, playing ball, I had a job, and still went out to the club. In college, it was no different, I was living life. I did get caught up the first two years. I was still doing music but it was halfway. The summer after my sophomore year is when it kind of clicked back. I was like ‘Oh man, don’t forget why you came up here.’ That’s when I got more focused and began doing music more regularly. I tried to do it every day or at least four or five times a week.”
Another hour passed by and the lights began to dim. Big K.R.I.T, the opening performer, kept the crowd lively with his energetic introduction. BU students and hundreds of others couldn’t wait to see those five letters in bright lights: J. Cole. By 8:05 p.m., he stepped on stage, wearing classic Jordan sneakers and a custom-made “JC” letterman jacket. His fans cheered as he performed “Who Dat.” Working closely with artists such as Jay Z, Beyonce, Drake, Missy Elliot and Trey Songz, has easily made the question “who dat?” an understatement. Now we ask, who doesn’t know who he is?
Now that you’re deeply involved in the music industry, did you expect everything to fall in place the way it has?
“No, I didn’t know how it would happen. I didn’t have any expectations. All I ever wanted to really do was the music. I thought I would get signed by the time I was eighteen or nineteen… it definitely took awhile.”
The concert continued with other hit singles including “Work Out.” Before the song was played, he ran off stage returning in a maroon and gold Bloomsburg University sweatshirt. The crowd went wild. He performed the other platinum hits, “Can’t Get Enough,” “Mr. Nice Watch,” “Nobody’s Perfect,” “In the Morning” and “Lights Please.” Once the concert ended, Cole greeted his front row fans, from left to right, showing his appreciation and love.
As a graduate, what can you say to current students who are struggling with a passion of theirs and debating on the future?
“Man, I just say go for it while you’re young. Take a chance. If you have some type of passion, go for it all early rather than being 34 or 35 saying ‘Damn, I wish I would’ve went for my writing career or acting career.’ Worse comes to worst, you can always crash at mom’s crib. You have your whole life to get old.”
Once the interview was complete, I handed J. Cole the green Bloomsburg University wristband on my wrist as a token of my gratitude. Bloomsburg University truly appreciates such a phenomenal concert. Continue the support by following him on Twitter @JColeNC!