J. Cole Explains Why His New Album Is Called The Fall Off

Over five years, ago, J. Cole’s acclaimed KOD included a song “1985 (‘Intro To The Fall Off’).” At the time, the song made headlines as a response song to Lil Pump and others, that defied the convention of traditional Rap disses. In the days that followed, J. Cole revealed that The Fall Off was intended to be his next album, and the song marked a pivot from an album themed around deadly trends in Rap music to something else entirely. Since then, Cole began a legendary feature run, while releasing 2021’s The Off Season, and some noteworthy loosies.

Cole, intentionally limited on press, has never said The Fall Off was not in scope. Instead, he’s fed the legend. In a new conversation with (former critic-turned-recent collaborator) Lil Yachty on A Safe Place Podcast, Cole opened up about his plans, and the genesis of the thematic album.

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At 1:06:45, Yachty mentions Drake’s Honestly, Nevermind. The 2022 album that broke from some of Drizzy’s more Rap-centered releases. He asks if Cole has ever considered such a pivot. “I’ve toyed around with things that have never been released,” the guest admits. “With this, with what I do, with [the area in Rap] where my heart is at, where like I love, I got unfinished business. The Fall Off, that I’m working on now, is like—I could never really [do something else]. ‘Cause you gotta immerse yourself, like you did with your [Let’s Start Here.] album that you just released—when you go that route, you gotta immerse.” Yachty’s 2023 album delves into Psychedelic sounds and vocals that often veer from the Georgia rapper’s established sound.

Cole continues, “And because I’ve had a goal for a long time of how I wanted this thing to like go, I flirted with it, but never had time to really dive in. What I’m wondering is, after I finish my breakfast in this regard, will that open me up to be more free, and to go explore some of those things? ‘Cause there’s a lot of stuff I love, and there’s a lot of stuff I want to do, and there’s a lot of amazing stuff to me [that I admire], but it don’t necessarily fit with what my end goal is.”

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Yachty tells the guest he senses that Cole raps like he has something on his chest. “I don’t know how much I want to give out, but as you can see, once I get goin’, I can’t stop myself from talkin’,” Cole begins. “So to not give away too much: years ago, this is 2015, after my biggest album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, I got off tour. I was doin’ music on tour, like, I was makin’ beats on the bus, writing here and there, but I was chillin’, for the most part. I was working, but it wasn’t any type of urgency. So I got home…bro, I was comfortable. I was comfy with watchin’ TV, watchin’ wifey; I was watchin’ TV shows for the first time since I was in my teens. At the time, it was Narcos—I’m watchin’ full series! I never did that s__t; How To Get Away With Murder [and] Odd Man Out.

While happy, Cole admits that the state of relaxation took a toll. “Every day I’d open my laptop up [and] try to make a beat, and then I’d try to write. And then when I’d start writin’, I’d be like, ‘Man, this s__t kinda ass, if I’m bein’ honest with myself. It’s nothin’ about what I’m writin’ the past few days, past few weeks that’s like impressing me.’ And it was like, ‘Oh, you hella comfortable.’ And, a lot of the skillset that I came in the game with—I started as a sharp, sharp, sharp rapper, and I still was at that time, but I got sharp in other areas.” Cole points to the ’23 Yachty collab, “The Secret Recipe” as evidence of his lyrical prowess. “By the time Forest Hills Drive, I was a storyteller, album-maker, song-maker, ‘Love Yourz,’ emotional, boom-boom. I had lost some of that bite. And I was trying to get that s__t back!'”

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Cole doubles down on his mid-2015 art. “Them s__ts was falling flat. I was like, ‘Oh, you lost a step in this regard. Are you comfortable?’ I had a real talk with myself, like, ‘Yo, bro. You accomplished a lot. That album was—that s__t went crazy. The tour went crazy. It’s like, you made it to where you wanted to make it to, do you even want to keep going? But do you just want to chill, go start a family, and just chill? Are you cool; do you want to retire right now?’ And I had that honest conversation with myself. I thought, and I was like, ‘What’s the answer?’ And I felt the answer immediately, and I was like, ‘Nah, not yet.’ Why? I want to be able to dunk again, damn near. If I go out and close the chapter—not sayin’ I will, but if I do, I want to do it at the highest level of achievement and skillset that I ever been in my life, you know what I mean? So I was like, that’s gonna take time.”

The concept crystalized. “So since then…I was like, ‘Oh, there’s an album for this.’ And I ain’t know the name. And over time, the name and the story and my skills grew, and the songs [too]. I’m already sayin’ like a lot, but it’s [there]. So your point, is there something on my chest? No, bro, it’s somethin’ I want to prove for myself. It’s a level I want to reach for myself. And all of them features have just been exercises at getting better, and pushing myself to getting better [and] sharpening the sword to ultimately end up [at my goal].”

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Elsewhere on the podcast, Cole reveals that he does not charge any money for those acclaimed features. He also speaks about his place among peers Kendrick Lamar and Drake.

#BonusBeat: New music by J. Cole and Lil Yachty is currently included on the Ambrosia For Heads playlist: