J Cole is one of contemporary hip-hop’s best lyricists. Alongside the likes of Joey Bada$$, Tyler The Creator and Kendrick Lamar, Cole has shown unparalleled creativity and versatility in his work and has established himself as one of the culture’s most prominent figures. However, he was not seen in this light when trying to secure a record deal.
Cole looked up to the moguls of the 2000s and learned from their success. In an interview with ABC News, the Lafayette musician stated, “I studied the game, I studied the greats, and I studied people’s movements and the mistakes they made and the pitfalls.”
One individual he had the utmost respect for was Jay-Z (real name Shawn Carter). On one occasion, Cole even tried to hand the Brooklyn legend his demo but was dismissed.
The ‘Wet Dreamz’ artist disclosed how he had envisioned the encounter, explaining, “he’ll go upstairs and listen to it, and if he listens to it, he’s gonna love it, and he’s gonna send down, you know, for me to come upstairs, and he’s probably going to sign me.”
However, the Black Album icon stated, “‘Man, I don’t want that!'” Cole unveiled he saw Carter as “evil at that point” because it crumbled his hopes at that moment. But Jay-Z wasn’t the only legend who passed on Cole before his explosion. In fact, quite a few labels had expressed interest in the rapper, and shortly after he met with Hov, Cole got invited to meet one of 50 Cent’s managers, Sha Money XL.
In an interview with Vibe magazine, the 2014 Forest Hills Drive creator unveiled that 50 Cent heard his demo but just wasn’t sold on him. According to Cole, Sha Money said,”‘Son, look, I’m playing 50 your sh*t.’ Supposedly, the story is that he played 50 my sh*t, and 50 wasn’t sure. Like, ‘I don’t know, man.’”
Sha Money eventually told Cole that he ultimately wasn’t the kind of artist 50 Cent was after at that point in time. The KOD musician finally ended up on Jay-Z’s Roc Nation despite Carter’s initial rejection of Cole’s demo. The Lafayette native now has his own la el Dreamville Records, home to artists such as J.I.D. and Ari Lennox. You can hear 50 Cent reveal why he passed on J Cole in the video below.