Producer: J. Cole
J. Cole: “That’s the first song my manager Mark Pitts heard from me. Kirk Lightburn had been trying to get him the song. He’d been trying to get him to listen to my music for six months and Mark wouldn’t listen because he’s a busy man. He wasn’t really trying to check for no rappers.
“One day in the office, Mark went to the bathroom. Kirk was like, ‘Fuck It.’ He just put the CD in while he was in the bathroom. Mark heard the song as he was walking back from the bathroom. He was about to leave the office but he heard the music and he said it was like, ‘I smelled food. I just had to go in.’ Like he had to go where the smell was coming from.
Mark Pitts (J. Cole’s Manager): “You know how you got that guy that always brings you stuff? You don’t like the first three things, by the time he brings you the fourth thing, you stop paying attention Kirk Lightburn was telling me about J. Cole and I’m like, ‘Here we go again.’ He sent ‘Lights Please’ to me but I never listened.
“Kirk happened to be in my office one day. I’m in the bathroom and I hear ‘Lights Please’ come out of my office. I turned around, like, ‘What the hell is that?! Who’s that?!’ Kirk is like, ‘He’s the guy I’ve been telling you about!’ I said, ‘Make me a copy of that.’ I heard ‘Lights Please’ and I heard ‘Lost Ones’ and I loved this dude. It was a one-two punch for me. I wanted to meet him.
J. Cole: “He heard it and he had an incredible reaction so he called me. I was in his office the very next morning and the same shit happened with Jay-Z. He played my shit to Jay-Z and Jay had the same reaction as him. [The song] is why he wanted to meet me and the meeting got me a deal.
Mark Pitts (J. Cole’s Manager): “It might have been in November 2008 [when I first heard ‘Lights Please’]. I called Jay and said, ‘I’ve got a Christmas present for you.’ I went to Jay’s house and said, ‘I’m going to play you one thing,’ and I played him ‘Lights Please.’ I remember his face when he heard ‘Lights Please.’
“He had the same expression I had from hearing it. He wanted to meet Cole. We had the meeting in the office and it was on. [I played Jay] ‘Lights Please,’ ‘Lost Ones,’ ‘Grown Simba,’ ‘Long Summer,’ ‘Night Rider,’ and a bunch of freestyles. He was in.
J. Cole: “When history is told 10, 15 years from now, 20, 30, 40 years from now, it’s important that they know that song was a big part of my career. I wanted to do that song justice, it deserved more than [to be on a mixtape]. It always deserved to be on the album—even when I put it on a mixtape, it was still an album song. I’m just giving it its proper due.
“It’s like that for the second album too. I got a lot of songs that didn’t go on this album that I been holding the same amount of time I’ve been holding ‘Lost Ones’ and ‘Lights Please.’ There’s a proper time for them. Maybe they need to be remade and adjusted, but they’re still too good to be wasted.
Mark Pitts (J. Cole’s Manager): “‘Lights Please’ was [there from] the beginning. You can’t not put that on the album. Cole is continuously growing so he was like, ‘That’s old!’ I was like, ‘No! Hell no!’ A lot of people don’t know that record and that’s also the beginning. You can’t not put that on there.
“A perfect example is with Chris Brown when he put the F.A.M.E. album out. ‘No Bullshit’ was on a mixtape and I was like, ‘There’s people who’ve never heard that. It’s one thing having it all on the mixtape, but when you put an album out, your reach is much further and people will be hearing it for the first time.’”
J. Cole: “I’ve got about 10 more songs from that era that I’ve been tweaking over the years and holding on to. I hold my songs in a higher light because there’s no guarantee you can do a song this good again, when you’re doing the caliber of music that I feel like I do.
“Not to sound crazy or cocky, but I could do a million bragging raps and flashy raps. Those never run out. When you’re dealing with life issues, concepts about relationships and family, and personal shit, those only come around but so often. They take a lot out of you. I feel like those aren’t the ones you should be throwing away.”