The Daily Grind Video

We all marked our calendars when J. Cole announced his new album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, will be dropping on December 7, but two weeks away from the release, we still have no single or any other information. Now, the Roc Nation rapper is on the cover of Complex‘s December/January issue and finally offering us some insight into what we can expect from his third album.

Check out some excerpts from the interview below.

This album feels like a turning point for you.

That’s exactly what it is. It’s crazy that I chose to record it in Hollywood because it’s such a “fuck Hollywood” album. Being out there maybe contributed to [me thinking], “I’m bugging. There’s some shit that’s way more important than how many albums I sell and if I’m the best.

What led to that realization?

I was unhappy when amazing things were happening, [career successes] that I should have been grateful for and super happy for. I didn’t feel I was getting the type of recognition I always wanted and that I felt you had to get to be considered at a certain level. Last year, I started to realize that means nothing. It’s all unattainable. You have no control over what somebody else feels about you, but you have 100 percent control over how you feel about yourself and how you feel about the people around you and how you handle life. I became happier and started to deal with shit more, not run from the feelings, not have the anxiety, like, “Complex ain’t fucking with me? Man, fuck these niggas. They missed the whole shit. They didn’t even tell niggas about The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights. They’re going to sleep on Born Sinner. Y’all didn’t see I sold more than Kanye?!”

Unlike most of his peers in the rap game, J. Cole is known solely for his music – not his fashion sense, controversies, or other over the top acts that put some rappers in the spotlight.

“I’m an introverted person, especially with problems. I feel like I can deal with shit on my own and I don’t need to express it. I put up a great front because I don’t want to show [that something bothers me], which is why I respect Wale. I’ve always loved that he says it and he says it right away, like, “Yo, I don’t feel this. Them niggas ain’t showing me no respect.” In a way, that’s therapeutic. To keep it in and suppress it makes it worse. That kind of expressiveness is not prevalent in my music, but you’ll find lines. That shit affected me so much that I had to write a line about it. I can tell you five or six lines where it was addressed. That’s the danger of giving a fuck about what people say in an age where you can see what people say so easily. It’s about getting over that, like, “Man, I don’t give a fuck. I love me. I love this shit I just made. If you like it, fucking great. It you don’t like it, cool. I hope you find some other shit you like.” On my best day that’s how I feel.”

With the co-sign of none other than Jay Z, there was no question Cole had something special to offer from the very beginning. However, Hov has stayed largely behind the scenes of J. Cole’s career, only making a feature appearance on “Mr. Nice Watch” from the North Carolina native’s debut album, Cole Word: The Sideline Story.

Do you feel the label and Jay Z believe in you more now?

They definitely believe in me more now. But first of all, Jay Z believed in me enough to sign me, and for that I am forever grateful. Thank God he heard “Lights Please” and those songs I played for him the first meeting. Thank God he signed me off of those. After that, I can’t front. If we asked him honestly, I’m sure he would say he wasn’t sure what I would turn out to be in the grand scheme of things, in terms of commercial success.

What was it like when he put the Roc chain on you?

That was a top life moment. I don’t soak shit up well, but after that night I definitely took a moment to. It wasn’t about that moment of the chain. It was like, it took so long to even get this dude to come out on stage with me. It took so long to get this guy to come to shows.

Did he just show up on his own?

No, we asked him to come. But we still didn’t know if he was going to come. You’re never sure. It was a culmination. And what I’ve realized, now that I’m far removed from that era, is that he could have been letting me grow and do my own thing. He could have looked at me with more confidence than I had in myself, like, “This kid doesn’t need Jay Z to walk out on the stage with him. He doesn’t need Jay Z to get on his song. He can do it without me.”

Dubbed one of the leaders of the new generation of rap, for J. Cole to retire after 2014 Forest Hill Drive would seem far too soon. However, according to Cole, he would be cool with it.

Would you ever consider retiring—going out on top like Jay?

I don’t know. I love doing it, so I’m not going to use that as [a sales pitch], like, “Last album—make sure you go out and buy.” But I’m content if this is my last one, going out like this. Listen to all my music and you’ll hear this nigga who went to New York City and started with a dream; he gained his confidence and his step with The Warm Up and was here to show y’all niggas “I’m the best”—and Friday Night Lights put a stamp on that. Sideline Story was like, “I have to figure this shit out and sell records.” Born Sinner was “Fuck, that wasn’t how I wanted to do it. I gotta make up for that one, I got to get back to myself.” And then fighting through all of that to realize on 2014 Forest Hills Drive, “No, this is where it was always at.”

Hopefully J. Cole will keep making albums for us to rock to. In the meantime, we’ll keep counting down the days until 2014 Forest Hills Drive.


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