But Can You Do the Impossible Twice?
J. Cole announcing a new album and pro basketball career highlights an all-star level of dream chasing
Rarely are promotional rollouts for rap albums transformative. Normally, they follow a standard playbook: daily bloviation on social media about their next work being their best work; a video for new single with an in vogue guest appearance; plus a couple media interviews for good measure. Yet the red carpet for J. Cole’s freshly released fifth solo album, The Off-Season, is a product push unseen. Mainly because the product isn’t the rapper’s top priority.
J. Cole has experienced repetitious rap success. Each of his four previous studio albums have been RIAA-certified platinum or better. His stock as a recording artist swole so robustly that he was able to launch his very own Interscope Records-backed label, Dreamville, a blue-collar powerhouse buoyed by uber talented artists like soul sensation Ari Lennox and brilliant MC JID. What separates Cole from his peers, however, is that he’s climbed his mountain in the shade, purposely avoiding limelight, while maintaining a rep among young purists as one of the best lyricists alive. After a decade as a professional master of ceremony, he’s reached the point where his success has him pondering if a descent is nearing — whether this is in reference to his sales, popularity, skill or all of the above isn’t quite crystal. Regardless, the North Carolinian isn’t simply breaking cautiously into retirement. Instead, Cole is attempting an epic transition to do what many consider impossible: use an already-realized childhood dream as the springboard for a deferred one. In Cole’s case, the latter is playing professional basketball.
Over the years, Jermaine Cole’s hoop dreams have been widely known and thoroughly documented. Before he became Jay-Z’s star protégé, he was a walk-on for the St. John’s University men’s basketball team. The Off-Season — like prior projects The Warm Up and Cole World: The Sideline Story — nods to that early love of roundball. Aside from the initial song release, “interlude,” which is more appetizer than single, and a short documentary, Apply Pressure, the gem inside the 6’4” MC’s recent rollout is the announcement that he signed on to hoop for Rwanda in the new Basketball Africa…