Five Years Later, J. Cole Drops A Visual For Lights Please & A Letter To Fans (Video)

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Time flies. Five years ago yesterday (June 15), J. Cole liberated one of the greatest free projects in recent memory. The Warm Up would be Cole’s major introduction to the same masses who would help him reach Gold-status in his albums to come. One stand out track on that ’09 look though, changed the game. “Lights Please” would reportedly prove to be the song to take the former St. John’s student and win over Jay Z, who was building his Roc Nation roster. The record, self-produced at that, showcased Cole’s rare ability to make lyrically-driven Hip-Hop that dealt with relational issues, and still catered to mainstream potential.

Five years later, Cole sat down with Sway Calloway and MTV Rap Fix. Looking back, Cole says he never wanted to give away the song—which he calls his best work at the time—for free. Intended to be held for his would-be debut album, the undeniable record was liberated to show Sony Records (or maybe the Roc) the commercial potential an Internet sensation might have. The experiment proved wise, as Cole would go on to become Jay’s latest successful protege in a lineage including Foxy Brown, Beanie Sigel, Kanye West, and arguably, Rihanna.

Moreover, Cole says that he teamed with popular video directors BBGun (remember this ill mind-melting visual for Asher Roth) to shoot three videos for The Warm Up. Included was “Lights Please,” which never released. Shot way, way back… the video now releases. Heads who were drawn to J. Cole’s early work will surely appreciate this rare treat in an era where artists rarely leave content unreleased:

Even more than this, Colematic hit fans off with an anniversary letter:

“5 years ago, we started a journey together. On June 15th, 2009 I released The Warm Up to a few who were waiting patiently for it. Full of my dreams, fears and predictions, it resonated with you right away. Over the next year I watched it grow legs and spread at an unbelievable pace all because you felt it so much. Five years later, I couldn’t be more proud of it’s impact. Thank you.

The Warm Up is a declaration of dedication to Greatness. Told from the perspective of a kid who wants more than what his city has to offer him. The crime. The stagnation. He wants more from the girls he dates. He wants out of Muhammad’s house. He refuses to let anyone tell him he can’t dream. That he won’t make it. He believes in himself. He dedicates his life to his craft, because he’s finally realized that the work that you put in today has a direct and absolute impact on the life you live tomorrow.

You heard the passion, you heard the stories, and you believed in him too. You rooted for him. And you’re still rooting. My thoughts today come from my observations over the past 5 years. I understand now that you’re rooting for him, rooting for me, because you are also rooting for yourself. You realize that this society kills dreams and encourages you to conform. To settle for the block, to join the army, to become a lawyer when you really want to paint, to get comfortable in the projects, to slave away at a 9-5 you hate because it pays decent; to become complacent with safety. The Warm Up says, “Fuck that. I will be Greater. Watch me.”

Is there a gold/platinum-selling artist in Hip-Hop right now who is as fan-friendly as J. Cole?

Related: J. Cole and Bas Are Celebrating in Their Latest Video (Video)