In 2015, Lute received a DM from J. Cole—who he had met briefly the year before—which led to a phone call encouraging him to delay the release of his sophomore mixtape, West 1996, Pt. 2. Cole, who had heard Lute's music while in Florida, wasn't angling for the inside track on a record deal with the Charlotte native, he just wanted to make sure that his fellow North Carolinian was set up to succeed.
After agreeing to hold off on the release of the project, which finally saw the light of day earlier this month, Lute received another phone call from Cole, this time with an invitation to join him on his Forest Hills Drive Tour.
According to Lute, Cole, who didn't know that Lute was no longer working the third shift at Walmart to provide for his family, offered to include full compensation for whatever time he missed from work.
"Right after Cole asked me to hold the tape to get it in the right hands, that was in June, and in August he hit me up and was like, 'Yo I know you just had a daughter and all but about to go on this Forest Hills Drive Tour. Let me know if I can re-compensate for the days you miss if you want to come on this tour; because I want you to come on this tour and really like see what goes on behind stage or behind the scenes,'" he toldHNHH. "I was like, 'Shit man, I just got fired like two or three days ago so I ain’t even worried about that. I got my bags I’m ready to go.'"
Following the tour, Lute made it official, signing a record deal with Dreamville and Interscope. With two labels now involved in the creative process, Lute and his team the took time to properly clear all the samples on the project and come to terms with all of the producers who had contributed beats to, what they thought, was originally going to be a free mixtape.
As for Cole, nobody should be surprised to learn that the 32-year-old made such a generous offer to his future signee. In addition to starting The Dreamville Foundation, whose mission is to bridge the gap between a world of opportunity and the urban youth, Cole has made countless headlines over the past four years for his charitable and philanthropic work, including paying for a fan's college education, spending time with inmates at San Quentin Prison, and turning homes his old neighborhood into transitional housing for lower class families.