It was just ten days between J. Cole’s announcement of his new album The Off-Season and it’s release. In that short timeframe, the Dreamville rapper pulled off one of the most unique album rollouts in recent memory. From the project’s cover art to Cole’s signing with a professional sports team, let’s take a look at how the rapper launched his newest album in unprecedented fashion.
May 4th: The Announcement
J. Cole took to social media to announce the upcoming project at midnight on May 14th. Posting to Twitter, he shared the album’s cover art with the caption “Just know this was years in the making”, along with a release date of May 14th.
The cover art features J. Cole staring off into the distance with his arms tucked away into his hoodie. Behind him stands a basketball hoop engulfed in a blazing fire. The scorching flames illuminate the smoke that stands between the rapper and the hoop.
May 10th: Signs Deal With Professional Basketball Team In Rwanda
As hype was already building around the release of The Off-Season, reports broke that J. Cole had signed a professional basketball contract with the Rwanda Patriots of the Basketball Africa League.
Cole had played college basketball at St. John’s and has even been rumored to want to make a run at the NBA. At 36 years old, the rapper seems to be taking the steps to make that dream a reality, earning a spot on a professional basketball team roster.
The news came just four days prior to Cole’s album release and definitely played into the project’s basketball-centric cover art.
Later That Day (May 10th): Drops ‘Applying Pressure: The Off-Season Documentary)
With Twitter abuzz after news broke regarding Cole’s signing to the Rwanda Patriots, the rapper released a 12-minute long documentary to his YouTube channel.
Focused on the rapper’s inspiration for making The Off-Season, the film offers fans a first hand perspective on Cole’s personal journey through the rap game. He details his past struggles, professional journey and drive to perfect his craft.
“For a long time, I just knew what I wanted to do but I couldn’t see it,” said Cole in the documentary. “This is the most ambitious shit I’ve ever done.”
Expectations for the album were set.
`May 14th: The Off-Season Releases
The album released to much fanfare and commercial success. According to Hits Daily Double, The Off-Season is expected to sell 280k-310k units in its first week of sales. That could be enough for The Off-Season to debut as 2021’s biggest first week release to date.
The 12 track album includes features from Lil Baby, 21 Savage, 6LACK and more. Also on the project are several references to NBA stars courtesy of J. Cole. The North Carolina native shouts out Russell Westbrook, Ja Morant and LeBron James on the project. He even sampled a Damian Lillard post-game interview on the track “p u n c h i n ‘ . t h e . c l o c k.”
After a three-year hiatus, J. Cole came through and delivered for his fans. How he went about releasing The Off-Season is remarkable, especially considering the rapper is in Rwanda playing professional basketball at this very moment. Only time will tell if his basketball career has the same success as his latest release.
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