J. Cole's journey to stardom is not an overnight one. Before scoring a major deal with Jay-Z's Roc Nation, the German-born rapper went through many failed attempts to garner the attention of major music labels including being rejected by the Jiggaman himself.
"I went to the studio where Jay-Z was recording and I waited outside for three hours," he recalled. "I was super timid and shy. I had the CD in my hand and I tried to hand it to Jay-Z. He looked at it and said, 'What is this? I don't want that. Give it to one of those other guys.' It was crushing."
Although he was devastated with the rejection, Cole refused to back down. "I knew after that, I had to go harder. That type of rejection fuels me. I believe that greatness is fueled by rejection," he gushed. His hard work was finally paid off when one year later he was called by Jay-Z for a meeting and eventually got signed.
Cole has two widely popular street albums; 2007's "The Come Up" and 2009's "The Warm Up". The single "Lights Please" from the latter mixtape was the one which got Jay-Z's attention. The combination of his strong lyricism and vivid storytelling made him stand out among a bunch of aspiring rhymers out there.
"Cole World: The Sideline Story" is his first major-label debut. Boasting collaborations with the likes of Trey Songz, Drake, Missy Elliott and his mentor Jay-Z, it's released in the United States on September 27 and made a grand entrance on Billboard Hot 200 by bowing at No. 1. He sold 218,000 copies in its opening week.
By garnering such number, Cole scored the biggest bow for any act's debut chart effort since Nicki Minaj opened at No. 2 with "Pink Friday" (375,000) last December. Before Scotty McCreery's No. 1 debut, he also became the first solo act to top the list at first try since B.o.B did so with his 2010's "B.o.B Presents The Adventures of Bobby Ray".