J. Cole Says Losing A Grammy Was A Win For His Career
At the 61st Grammy Awards, which aired in February, J. Cole was not a winner. He was nominated for his collaboration on Miguel’s War & Leisure (namely for “Best R&B Song” for “Come Through and Chill.” He was also nominated for “Best Rap/Sung Performance,” his collaboration with 6lack on East Atlanta Love Letter (“Pretty Little Fears”). Cole’s own 2018 album, KOD, which was arguably one of the most successful and acclaimed albums in a very crowded year in music, wasn’t even mentioned among the list of nominees.
Cole’s ubiquity in popular culture but near complete absence at what many consider to be the industry’s barometer for success is one of the facet’s of Cole’s celebrity that makes him different from other Rap giants. Unlike Drake or Kendrick Lamar, Cole has lost every single Grammy for which he’s been nominated. Dating back to losing the award for “Best New Artist” in 2012 (to the band fun), his seemingly fruitless relationship with the Grammys hasn’t been a source of great concern to him, and certainly not a hindrance to his career. In fact, being a Grammy Award-losing rapper several times over may have helped Jermaine Cole get to where he is now, at the top.
In a recent interview with GQ‘s Allison P. Davis, the North Carolina MC/producer says his first Grammy loss was ultimately a good thing. “It would’ve been disastrous for me, because subconsciously it would’ve been sending me a signal of like ‘Okay, I am supposed to be this guy,’” he says. “But I would’ve been the dude that had that one great album and then fizzled out.” Instead, he’s released five platinum-selling albums and remained not only relevant, but influential. KOD, which arrived in April 2018, broke an all-time streaming record with its release.“I’m not supposed to have a Grammy, you know what I mean?,” he says with a Zen-like matter-of-factedness. “At least not right now, and maybe never. And if that happens, then that’s just how it was supposed to be.”
Another facet of Cole’s fame that makes him singular is the success he’s found releasing truly solo work. “J. Cole went platinum with no features” has entered the Hip-Hop lexicon, as Davis points out in her story. Without a single collaborator on 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014), 4 Your Eyez Only (2016) or KOD, Cole has managed to execute and maintain a brand that is reliably solely on his ability to keep listeners engaged, without the hype of a splashy rollout, singles featuring hot new acts or even remixes. Cole’s well aware of all the “platinum with no features” talk, he tells Davis. “I was loving it…I was like, ‘Word up—this is funny as hell.’ But the second or third time, I was like, ‘All right, it’s almost embarrassing now.’ Like, ‘All right, man, y’all gonna make me put a feature on the album just so this sh*t can stop.’ ” He alludes to the fact that featuring another artist on a future album is within the realm of possibilities. “I don’t have any right now that I really want to boast about,” he says, suggesting a plan for collaboration is already in the works.
Cole is celebrated for his social activism as well as his music. In conjunction with the release of 4 Your Eyez Only, Cole released a documentary with the same name. In it, he held and filmed conversations with Black Americans in various cities around the country, highlighting issues of systemic racism, murderous police and more. More recently, he added his voice to the throngs of Colin Kaepernick supporters, penning a powerful statement about why boycotting the NFL should continue. During his interview with Davis, Cole gets a phone call from the former football player turned civil-rights icon. After hearing the news that Kaepernick reached a settlement in his lawsuit against the league that effectively blacklisted him, Cole says “Justice was served. This man got his money, know what I mean? Plus, he’ll probably play again.”
This April, J. Cole and his label will make Hip-Hop history with Dreamville Fest, which takes place in Cole’s native North Carolina. In addition to being the first event of its kind produced by Cole and his team, it will have a powerful effect in improving the lives of citizens. The festival was originally scheduled to take place in September 2018, but organizers were forced to reschedule due to Hurricane Florence. As such, Cole announced proceeds from Dreamville Fest will benefit his Dreamville Foundation, whose mission is “to inspire, empower and encourage the urban youth.”
The feature also confirms that Cole and company recorded more than 127 songs for Revenge Of The Dreamers, Vol. 1.