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J Cole promises BEST for BBA StarGame launch
Big Brother Africa StarGame, as it is dubbed this year, is upon the continent of Africa again. All is set for the launch at the Big Brother Africa house later this evening. You may remember that last year U.S. rapper Busta Rhymes performed live with his long time friend Spliff Star at the premiere of the reality franchise that has taken the world by storm. This year, the artist to join in the festivities as the house is opened for the next 91 days, is Roc Nation‘s own J Cole.
J Cole touched down in the country a few hours ago. Straight from the airport, he graced us with his presence at the press conference that took place at Sandton Sun Hotel thismorning. The media got a chance to pick his brain. And this is how it went down.
The U.S. rapper, born Jermaine Lamar Cole in 1985 in Frankfurt, Germany, expressed his excitement at being in the country, and in the continent. He jokingly revealed how surprised and fascinated he was to see billboards adorned with black faces as he was driven from the airport, stating that in the U.S., black people are only seen in the 6th billboard.
I asked him about the impediments he had to push through to get to where he is, because of how touch and competitive the industry is. He uttered that it was hard; and it is still a struggle. Coming from a small city, he had to move closer to where the action is, which meant relocating to New York. His biggest hurdle was getting his foot in the door. However, doing internships helped a great deal in this undertaking. When I asked J Cole about the pressures he faces now that he’s broken into the industry, he admitted that staying at the top of the game is one of them. The smooth and eloquent rapper (you never thought these words would be used to describe a rapper, one from the U.S. nogal; neh?) vows to stay at the forefront of what he has developed, yet balancing this with is artistic expression.
J Cole briefly shared how his relationship with his boss Jay Z began. He had t-shirts made with the writing, “Produce For Jay-Z Or Die Trying”, inspired by the title of 50 Cent‘s autobiographical film, Get Rich Or Die Trying, that was out at the time. This was followed by numerous “stalking Jay-Z” moments. J Cole said he still sometimes can’t believe it’s real when he is sitting in studio with Hov. Throughout his hustle, his confidence made him aware that he would make it. And right now, he said in jest, the only thing Jay Z can boast about is having more watches than him.
The rapper and producer, whose debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story was released to critical and commercial acclaim in September of 2011, delved into one of the songs, entitled Lost Ones. When asked if it was inspired by personal circumstance, J Cole expounded that the incident happened to a close personal friend. He explained that he wrote it from that perspective, relaying that it was a case of, “If I were him, what would I say?”
One of the media representatives asked J Cole what he would have done if he wasn’t a rapper. He told the masses at the hotel conference centre that he always wanted to be a basketball player, even though he’d probably still be trying to get drafted. The North Carolina resident brought to light that his mother wanted him to be a lawyer, something that didn’t sit right with him. He did however pursue his higher education studies, majoring in communication and minoring in business; subsequently graduating magna cum laude from St. John’s University.
Another question was posed to J Cole about whether he uses the skills he obtained from the above mentioned studies in his music business. He disclosed that even though it’s not direct, it does give him another aspect of stuff to write about. Moreover, his great understanding of communications helps in that aspect of his career. He continued, “It’s another angle of life to talk about.” And a refreshing one, since he’s veering away from the same subjects every other rapper raps about.
With regards to his performance at the Big Brother Africa StarGame launch tonight, J Cole enunciated his wish to have had more time. He is set to perform only three songs during the kick-start of Africa‘s biggest reality television show. J Cole promised to do his best though. And he told us how he is looking forward to coming back soon for at least a full week, to do a fully-fledged concert or tour.
Asked which artist he enjoyed working with the most on Cole World: The Sideline Story, he gleefully pronounced Missy Elliott‘s name. He went on to relay how the song came about. J Cole had wanted to work with Missy for a while. But his album was almost done and it didn’t seem he would succeed to do that ahead of the release. He then reached out to her, and the whole process happened through Skype. This is, as he declared, a moment he would never forget. As far as influences in his music, he touted Tupac, Nas, Eminem and Canibus as some of the rappers he looked up to. In fact, just before Tupac died, J Cole had written a poem for him, he avowed.
From his utterances, the relationship J Cole shares with his mother is a vividly healthy and close one. He spoke about her with such warmth, adulation and kindness. For example, he acknowledged that he can play the piano and violin because of how she pushed him to. He did admit, however, that he regrets not taking the guitar and violin lessons as seriously as he did piano. It was also his mother who planted an idea in him, that he could get into acting, something he wants to branch off to in the future. J Cole imparted how would record skits on the camera, playing different characters. Although he was goofying around at the time, he appreciates his mother showing him what he is capable of.
We also have to thank the same woman for raising an honest, real and kind young man. All these traits surfaced as he answered question after question. He even admitted that the whole rumour about him hooking up with Rihanna is just for publicity. That’s after confessing that America is ignorant about things that are or happen outside of their country. He made an example of how they don’t even have a clue about simply geography, in terms of where other countries are in the different continents. J Cole expressed his desire to rectify this, at least for himself, by visiting each country in Africa. And this seems like a brave and genuine gesture ahead of Africa Day. Hopefully he returns to fulfill this wish before the end of the year.
Like I said, this is one of the real-est rappers I’ve had an encounter with. There were no entourages hovering over him, shielding him from what I gathered were some of his biggest fans present at the press conference. He even joined us for breakfast afterwards, after allowing each and every person who wanted to pose with him for a photo to do just that. I say kudos to J Cole. I hope other rappers learn from him humility, kindness, and humanity.
As mentioned, J Cole will perform tonight as the seventh season of Big Brother Africa StarGame kicks off tonight at 8pm on Channel 198. Oh, the after party will be at Hush in Rosebank tonight, so you can also get a chance to have a glimpse of J Cole.
My Trip to The Big Brother Africa StarGame House
Speaking of Big Brother, I had a pleasure of staying in the Big Brother Africa house ahead of the premiere tonight, this past week. Members of the media were invited to stay overnight on Thursday.
I had no inkling as what to expect. Having packed an overnight bag, as suggested on the instructions with the email sent to us, I headed to the central meeting point at the MultiChoice Offices in Randburg.
We were driven to the location where the famed house is. Before being allowed access to the house, we congregated in a conference room at the studios to be briefed about our stay. This is where it started to sink in that I was about to embark on one of the most intriguing experiences of my life. As the rules and guidelines were presented, it crossed my mind that I might have made a mistake, due to my very private nature. However, the thought that whatever the crew would be recording will only be available for a few members of MNet, calmed me a bit.
Can you imagine being cooped up in a house full of strangers, with tens of cameras and microphones, for 24 hours; let alone for 91 days? Well, I did manage the 24 hours. Surprisingly, it was a fun experience. I enjoyed the tasks we had to do. These included one where we had to count a number of balls in a plastic container without touching or moving anything; as well as a task whereby the first person to stand up from the lawn we sat on at the porch, at exactly the 17th minute, would win (and note that there are no clocks or any other indicators of time in the house). In between tasks, we also improvised by engaging in our own games, one of them being a singing competition, which by the way was won by our team.
Moreover, I learnt a lot about myself while in the house. Just from interacting with others about different subjects, I found myself being able to figure out some of their personalities and what kind of people they are.
What suprised me even more is that, being addicted to TV, my phone or social networks, for the most of the time I didn’t even think about them. Some of my friends have always told me that I need to detach myself from my phone sometimes; one even suggesting that I must not look at my phone for 15 minutes after waking up every day, to harness myself and my soul and get ready for the day ahead. But I digress. Anyway, although the night was long, it was certainly one to remember. I just hope the tapes featuring whatever went down, are never released to anybody (kneels down to pray, LOL).
We must have slept for about 2 hours before the sirens rang to wake us up. A trainer was waiting for us for a workout. Still tired from the previous night’s activities, we dragged our feet for a light, but strenuous exercise regime. After that, we took to the showers, had breakfast and prepared to leave.
Before leaving the premises, we congregated back at the conference centre where a prize giving “ceremony” was conducted. The director thanked us for being the guinea pigs for what’s about to start later tonight.
Truthfully, I will never enter the Big Brother Africa competition. But the 24 hours we spent at the Big Brother Africa house, under the same conditions as the contestants, was fun, entertaining, eye-opening and absorbing. Thank you to MNet Africa for the opportunity. And for the brunch with J Cole earlier today. And of course, for the Big Brother Africa StarGame launch tonight. I can’t wait.
Big Brother Africa StarGame will broadcast 24 hours a day on Channel 198, from tonight. Do tune in when you get time.