J. Cole Explains Why He Made His 1985 Diss Record Of Lil Rappers (Video)
When J. Cole speaks, it is not to be taken lightly. In recent years, the North Carolina superstar MC/producer and Dreamville label founder has shunned the public eye, or at least many of their questions. After decidedly not allowing interviews altogether for late 2016’s 4 Your Eyez Only, Cole posted a 94-minute interview with Angie Martinez today (May 16).
With the same legendary radio host that Cole had one of his most memorable interviews with, surrounding 2014 Forest Hills Drive four years ago, the Roc Nation artist picked up on that discussion. This time, the two discuss KOD, Cole’s growth as a man in meditation and sobriety, plus his perspective on interviews and social media. The discussion also does not stray from confronting some controversies. This includes Cole’s current relationship with (and opinion of) Kanye West, the notion of a “worthy” album guest, and some backstory on the trolling from Lil Pump and Smokepurrp.
The interview took place this past weekend, while J. Cole was performing at Miami, Florida’s Rolling Loud Festival. The interview is conducted at a residence of Nas, Amy Winehouse, and Fugees producer Salaam Remi.
J. Cole also addresses “1985 (Intro To The Falloff)” in the last third of the chat. At 1:08:00, Angie Martinez mentions the record, and how Lil Pump and Smokepurrp have reacted to the event, with ongoing “F*ck J. Cole” chants at concerts. Cole says he did not give repercussions much thought when he made his record. He also says he is not confused by the adversaries’ words. “I’ve spent enough time seeing what’s going on, and what’s brewing, like with kids, to understand it. If I didn’t understand it would [bother me].”
However, Cole provides some interesting backstory. “The reason I wrote that is that, ‘F*ck J. Cole’ chant that you’ve seen, I don’t know if you know, but that was prominent for like at least a year before that song came out.” Cole says he is unsure why it started. However, he went to confront “the energy.” He drove to Los Angeles boutique, podcast space, and hangout No Jumper with his manager. “I pulled up to the store where they be in. I am prepared. I might walk in the store and they might try to fight me, ’cause the energy was like, ‘F*ck J. Cole!‘ But it’s cool. I have to go see if it’s real, and how real it is.” Cole went to ground zero of the movement and found quite the opposite. “Everybody that was in there was like, ‘Oh sh*t! J. Cole. I love your sh*t, bro. Fire’ After the fifth person did that, I realized what it is. It’s marketing. It’s a marketing ploy. It’s trolling. We’re in the age of trolling. We’re in the generation of trolling. These kids have figured something out. They’ve figured out that attention is all that matters. The skill? ‘Who gives a f*ck about skill?’ The quality? ‘[Nobody gives a] f*ck about quality?’ No. All that matters is attention. This music is just a platform me to get attention. What’s even more important than the music is the sh*t that I do outside of the music. What type of wild sh*t can I cook up? What type of wild sh*t can I say? Just to get the attention. We are living in a Donald Trump era,” says Cole, adding that “artists came up off my name on some ‘F*ck J. Cole’ sh*t.” He says he hopes to meet some of those artists the night of the interview. “This is the hub for them.” He says he knows Lil Pump will be there.
“I love them. It is a genuine [love],” he says, noting that he’s a fan of their music. “It’s not like I drive around and listen to it, but I’ve spent time listening and being like, ‘Yo, this is fun. It ain’t about sh*t, and it don’t matter, but this is fun. It might be at the cost of something. It might be some detrimental effects down the line, [as mentioned on] ‘1985.’” Cole says that he relates to the desire to want fame and success, especially at that age. He also senses a pain that fuels that fire in artists like Pump, Purrp, and 6ix9ine, and says society supported this movement.
Noting that he is bringing Young Thug as his tour opener, Cole says that KOD is inspired by the deliveries and rhyme techniques found in the so-called “mumble rap” movement.
Earlier in the chat, J. Cole discusses kiLL edward (31:00), his alter-ego inspired by his mother’s boyfriend. The artist corrects that he does not want to actually kill the man (who he is unsure heard the album). He remembers some good times, but cannot forgive the abuse to him, his siblings, and especially his mother.
Besides edward, who appears on two tracks, there are no guests. It is the third consecutive project that Jermaine did this. “I just don’t work like that. ‘Nobody’s worthy,’ that’s to stunt. That’s not true. That’s just rappers,” explains Cole (39:00), keeping up in a rich tradition of bar bravado. He admits that the lyric is popular in concert. “In reality, mad people are worthy. But ‘why?’ to answer your question, I just don’t work like that. I don’t work like that. I work in a closed-off space; I’m very self-contained, and I like it like that. I’m not saying I’ll never become a person that operates the other way [again]. I don’t make a song and be like, ‘Damn, I want to get such-and-such on it.’ No. I said everything I wanted to say. This is what I want to say. This is the hook.”
Angie asks if this means that a long-rumored collaborative project will never happen. “Not for that reason—it’s not that I wouldn’t want work with [Kendrick Lamar], that’s not the case.” He also points out that people did not stress that Prince and Michael Jackson did not do a collabo’ LP. Angie points out that Ab-Soul suggested there was an album between the two Rap superstars in the works in 2016. “Oh nah. He might be talking about when we originally got up to work. This was years ago. We just did a few songs. We did a bunch of ideas—put it like that. It was nothing… Like, you wouldn’t call it ‘an album.’ You wouldn’t call it nothin’ like that.” Angie dismisses that it must not be “a real thing.” “It didn’t come from nowhere,” corrects Cole. “It came from us. But it’s not like something that’s actively happening.” He closes on the subject saying that people should not anticipate something, “Not ’cause it’s never gonna happen, but because it’s not right now. And I don’t like teasing or playin’ the game, ’cause this has been goin’ on for a minute.” Towards the close of the interview, Cole confirms plans to do an entire kiLL edward project in the near future.
J. Cole is extremely open about a recent conversation with Kanye West (44:00). West called his past collaborator, reportedly seeking critical guidance during a roller-coaster month in the media. J. Cole admits he “felt some type of way” about West tweeting aspects of their communication. “He called me. I would’ve never posted that, or told him to post that.” Kanye reportedly apologized to J for the social media action. After, Cole told the peer, “‘It felt like you used my name in that very quick conversation for social media and to keep your thing going, whatever you were doing.’ It just felt like it wasn’t sincere because of that.” He later condemns “free thinking” as “slave thinking,” and charges that ego is in the driver’s seat of such a campaign.
Cole speaks at length about the dangers and confusion that surround West’s “free thinking” campaign. He likens the catchy expression to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign leading up to his election. He offers to speak more openly about West’s motives off camera, but states that he is fine weighing in, given how West involved Cole.
Perhaps more notably, Cole addresses his 2016 “False Prophets (Be Like)” video single. “That song wasn’t about him. There’s one verse that applies to him, for sure. But if you listen to that song, that song is about what this [Kanye West media storm] is exposing, and what I’ve got to check myself about—and I check myself on that song as well. It’s like, yo: ‘celebrity worship.’ We’re worshiping celebrities. At one point in time, I put [Kanye West] on a major pedestal,” he says adding that JAY-Z, Tupac, Biggie Smalls, and Nas were there as well. Cole says that inspiration is fine, but worship veers into “an unhealthy level.” Cole adds that he wrote the song in early 2016, months before Kanye West’s on-stage rants, abrupt tour cancellation, and eventual hospitalization. “No, I wrote that song based on observations when nobody was saying sh*t about mental health!” he says at 49:30. “Don’t have a mental health conversation after somebody checks them-self into a hospital.”
Beyond Kanye, J. Cole points out how people are manipulating the attention economy. Stints like 2018 ‘Ye are examples. However, he admits that his interview relates to having a new album out and people’s desires to know more. “I’m not here for the sales, but I didn’t [do an interview] when I didn’t have an album out.” Closing out his thoughts on West, Cole charges, “I feel he’s really good at sampling language that will resonate. It just so happens that this time, he sampled the wrong sh*t, ’cause he thought ‘I can make this resonate. I can sample this, and this is gonna get me—the ultimate end goal is so I can be more powerful and viewed as [influential].’ The danger, to me, is…that’s cool when you’re promoting some f*ckin’ fashion sh*t that don’t really concern me and jeopardize my life as a Black man, or don’t really have no ramifications. ‘No, go ‘head. That’s positive. Go do what you do. Go head-to-head with these dudes on that level.’ But when you empower a demographic of people that their whole intent is to suppress and oppress people, then it’s like, ‘Bro, I can’t rock with that. I have a hard time watching that and holding my tongue, almost. Like, ‘now you’re really violating.'”