J. Cole Speaks On His Production Process, Upcoming Mixtape & Keeping Jay-Z Waiting

When it comes to titles, J. Cole is like a dater with commitment issues: He’s not quick to put one out there until he’s sure it’s right. It’s the reason both his upcoming mixtape—rumored to be dubbed Villematic (false!)—and debut album are still officially nameless. The Roc Nation flagship MC and Jay-Z protégé, who laced the theme music for baller game NBA211, is still set on making his own name, though; not only on the mic, but behind the boards, as well. Having carved out his own sound—jazzy, instrument-rich, sample-based melodies—the soulful rapper is set on crafting bangers for your favorite MC. That is, once he actually starts sending them out. 

Minutes before taking the 106 & Park stage, J. Cole hopped on the horn with VIBE to talk upgrading his production, his upcoming mixtape, waiting for the perfect Jay-Z record and the thing about titles. —John Kennedy

VIBE: Your production got some good acknowledgement after “Bun B For President” hit the web. What’s the back story on that record?

J. Cole: Bun hit me towards the end of last year, he was working on his album. I was working on my album but I also wanted to get my production foot in the door, which I’m still working on to this day. But anyway, I was mad inspired. This is Bun. Let me cook up some crack. [Laughs] Lo and behold, I made that beat. And I was like, “Aw man, this is perfect.” I came up with the concept because back in the day there was “Eric B For President “ with Rakim. So I was like, “Aw man, let’s do ‘Bun B For President,’” so I just played off the concept and sent it to him. He was loving it, but I don’t know what happened in the meantime. I read the interview where he said that he ain’t really know what to do on it, which was cool. I know what that’s like. But it would’ve been amazing, man, if that would have made his album. I would have loved to hear that.  

Have you been sending tracks to other people, though? 

I make beats for other people, but I’m so busy. I was just having this conversation with Busta Rhymes. I got an incredible beat for Busta, and a verse. I get so caught up in artist mode [that] I forget to even send these things out. I got beats for Nas, Jay, Andre [3000]. All these people that I’m doing beats for, they would never know. [Laughs] They just sit in my folder. Everything is going to happen at the right time. These beats will get out there when the timing is right.

Who’s the most random person you’ve made a beat for?

I don’t want to say random, but I got this incredible J. Cole-meets-RZA [track] that I’d love to get Ghostface, Raekwon, Vado from Harlem—like a real New York thing. Then do the same thing on some South shit, and get all these Down South rappers on this gritty New York-sounding beat. It would be incredible. I feel the beat would make RZA proud.

What would you name this mega North-meets-South, Wu-sounding record?

I called the beat “Kill ‘Em All.” It ain’t nothin’ too crazy. Kill ‘em all, nigga! [Laughs]

[Laughs] That sounds dope in the background!

This shit is crazy. [Laughs]

Titles seem to mean a lot to you.

Yeah. I take pride in my names! I used to sit there for five minutes and figure out what I’ma name the beat. And, literally, it’s the first thing that comes to my head. Sometimes I’ll name it “This Beat Sucks.” [Laughs] Or “This Shit Incredible.” 

Ha! You take a little longer for CD titles. What made you name the next mixtape Villematic?

That’s the thing, the mixtape isn’t called that—just the song. The cover kinda confused people. My plans wasn’t to call it VIllematic. I’m deciding between titles right now.

All clear. So what’s the theme of the mixtape? Is it in the same vein as The Come Up and The Warm Up?

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