The Warm Up - J. Cole
The Warm Up

The Warm Up is J Cole’s second mixtape and the leading factor in him being signed to Roc Nation, which significantly is home to “Lights Please,” the song that convinced Jay-Z to sign him. It is also the first basketball-themed project in his early discography. Cole named the project The Warm Up because he’s practicing even harder than he did in his debut mixtape, The Come Up to make sure that when he tries out for the team again, he’ll be the top pick, as he explained in an interview with Complex: It’s based on this story from when I was in high school and I got cut from the team. A lot of people get cut from the team, but it’s really about how people handle the shit. Some people quit. They get spiteful, say fuck the coach and they won’t try out no more, some people will just go harder and use it for motivation to make sure that next year it’s undeniable. Cole first met Jay Z in front of his studio and had a beat CD to give to him. Eventually, he arrives at the studio and Cole introduces himself and attempts to give him the CD, but was overlooked by him harshly. With the release of this mixtape, it was then shared to Jay-Z by a close worker, to which he then listened to the sixth track, “Lights Please” and decided to meet him. The Warm Up cover art shot by Chad Griffith, features a photo of J. Cole holding a basketball behind a blistering snowy night – to which many assumed was a green-screen. However, J. Cole’s manager “IB” Hamad revealed on social media 10 years after the mixtape release, that the scene was in actual fact, real. J. Cole originally intended to take the photoshoot for the mixtape inside the gymnasium of Holy Cross High School in Queens. However, the coach didn’t show up, causing J. Cole to improvise the shoot – standing in front of the basketball ring outside in the snow, not knowing he would be creating such an iconic photo. An image from the original photoshoot: J. Cole pays homage to the mixtape cover of The Warm Up in his later album, ‘The Off-Season’, which features a cover art of a basketball ring ignited in flames. The VP of Creative Services at Dreamville, Felton Brown revealed in an interview with Complex, that this was indeed a way of encompassing the mixtape series of ‘The Warm Up’ and ‘Friday Night Lights’ which also features J. Cole cradling a basketball, to highlight his journey in music and celebrate how far he has came by burning down the hoop.
Distribution of songs on The Warm Up by producer