Interviews by Insanul Ahmed; Photography by Matt Salacuse; Styling by Matthew Henson; Additional Credits.

This feature is a part of Complex's J. Cole week.

Today, J. Cole’s debut album Cole World: The Sidelines Story finally hit stores. It’s been a long journey for the man born Jermaine Lamarr Cole, as chronicled in our online cover story and infographic timeline. He went from Fayetteville, North Carolina to signing with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and he’s arrived with a well-received debut that’s the perfect follow-up to his beloved mixtapes The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights.

Unburdened by too many guest verses, meddlesome producers, or outside influences, Cole World lives up to its title: This is Cole on his own terms as he mixes braggadocious raps and heartfelt story-telling. Is it a classic debut? Only time will tell.

For now, we reached out to the 26-year-old rapper/producer and he broke down exactly how his long-awaited debut came together, track by track. As if that wasn’t enough, we also caught up with Cole’s manager Mark Pitts and producers No I.D. and L&X Music, who told us what it’s like to work with one of the most exciting new rappers out. So click through and find out why he's not afraid to rap about crying, whether his story-telling raps are based on true stories, and how J.Cole finally made it off the sidelines and onto center court.

As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)