Jay-Z Protege J. Cole Takes Unusual Path to Stardom

Up-and-coming rapper J. Cole attended college to get closer to idol Jay-Z.

ByABC News
September 17, 2009, 4:28 PM

Sept. 19, 2009— -- Whether it was by fate, or simply through calculated decisions, the cards were dealt in J. Cole's favor.

The 24-year-old rapper, the first artist signed to Jay-Z's fledging new label Roc Nation, now faces the task of making hit music under the wing of his boss, who brought to the world superstars Kanye West and Rihanna.

"I studied the game and I studied the greats and I studied people's movements and the mistakes they made and the pitfalls. And he just did everything so close to perfect," Cole said about Jay-Z, during an interview with ABC News. "If I wanted to do it like anybody or better than anybody, it would be him," Cole said.

But just two years ago, he feared that chance would never come. In September 2007, after reading about Jay-Z's upcoming album "American Gangster" on a rap Web site, Cole thought he could get his break by making beats for a record that would ultimately top the Billboard charts.

"This was my chance. It was like a sign," Cole recalled. "God is telling me to get on this album. So I was praying on it," Cole said.

Cole went home that day and began making beats for the album. Hours later, with his work in hand, Cole and a friend waited outside Roc the Mic studio in the rain, on a hunch that Jay-Z would be there to finish work on the album.

Cole had the scenario figured out in his mind.

"Maybe we could just slide him the CD and if we slide him the CD, 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 -- or whatever was in my head," Cole said with laughter.

Two-and-half hours passed before Jay-Z emerged from a black Rolls Royce Phantom.

Cole mustered up the courage to mumble a few words and hand Jay-Z the CD.

"Man, I don't want that," Jay-Z responded as Cole recounted, delivering a crushing blow to his spirit.