J. Cole is ready to emerge from hip-hop's sidelines (VIDEO)

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New York, NY – Maybe you think J. Cole is just a mixtape rapper.

And that’s ok with him – for now.

But the 26-year-old North Carolina native is confident those opinions will change when his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story is released this week.

“They say you…got your whole life to work on your first album,” Cole told theGrio’s Todd Johnson. “I got songs on [here] that are four years old, I got stories on there that are longer than that. It just means that much to me.”

Cole, whose rap moniker is a shortened version of his first name Jermaine, has built a huge following based on the success of three previous mixtapes.

In 2009, he became the first rapper signed to Jay-Z’s label Roc Nation — and even features the hip-hop legend on the album track, “Mr. Nice Watch.”

“I wouldn’t even say [it was] a dream come true because I’ve never dreamed that…it didn’t even feel possible,” Cole said of his relationship with Jay-Z. “It’s a huge blessing to be able to have him a text away or a call away…”

Cole, whose album also features collaborations with Drake and Missy Elliot, recently opened for Rihanna’s Loud tour. He said the experience helped him expand his fanbase.

“I learned how to perform in front of a pop audience,” Cole said. “I went on tour with [Jay-Z], with Drake but when I went on tour with her…she had the highest production value I had ever seen.”

And with that expanding fanbase and publicity, Cole found himself in an unfamiliar place — a target for gossip.

“You know…they really make up out of thin air anything,” Cole said of rumors speculating he had made a sextape with Rihanna. “It made me upset at the fact that I had believed any of the other rumors.”

Cole’s latest single, “Can’t Get Enough” features R&B crooner Trey Songz.

Follow theGrio’s Todd Johnson on Twitter at @rantoddj