A Star is Born
by Jay-Z (featuring J. Cole)

Album: The Blueprint 3 (2009)

Songfacts®:

  • This Blueprint 3 track features a guest appearance from North Carolina hip hop artist J. Cole, who was the first rapper signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation. Cole told MTV News that his star-making 16 bars on this song was the first time that he'd been in the studio with the celebrated MC. And not only was Jay there but a certain other superstar was present as well. He recalled: "[Jay-Z] was on the couch at first, right there. It was the first time I was in the studio with Jay. And Beyoncé was there, to make it 10 times worse. Half my thoughts are trying to think of a verse, and then Jay-Z is there watching you write a verse. So I'm soaking it up."
  • The track finds Jay-Z rapping about some of the leading hip-hop stars of the past 15 years. Cole explained to MTV News: "I think the title [of the song] and the feature really says more than even what the song is saying. 'Cause in the song, he's passing the torch in terms of letting me get the last verse. But he's not saying, 'Get 'em, J.' or anything like that. So the title says what the song can't even say. I mean, to list all the names he names, all the greats [in his lyrics]. Even the cats that came and went. And to get on that with no history in the game, I got to add a fresh perspective."
  • This song features a big brass sample from Mother Freedom Band's funky disco number, "Touch Me."
  • The hook is sung by R&B recording artist Tony Williams. Kanye West's older cousin on his mom's side, Williams first became noticed as a singer when he sung on the gospel hymn "I'll Fly Away" from Yeezy's 2004 The College Dropout album.
  • Williams is uncredited and didn't realize at first that he was the vocalist. He explained to Genius:

    "Kid Cudi initially did that hook and I just did harmonies and a supporting vocal for the melody. When Blueprint 3 came out, I looked at the track list and saw 'A Star is Born featuring J. Cole.' But I had no idea who J. Cole was, and when I listened to the song I heard a hook that I'd never heard before, because the last time I heard it, Cudi was singing the lead vocals and my voice was only supporting him. For two weeks, I listened to the record and thought, 'Wow, this J. Cole is really killing this hook.' But it's actually me!

    What ended up happening was that they took Cudi totally out of the mix and pushed my vocals up to make it the lead. So it's my voice on the record, but for two weeks I was listening to myself and thinking it was some dude named J. Cole."

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