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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Nas Says 'Illmatic's Legacy Has “Started To Take On A Life Of Its Own"

Nas’ discography of studio albums has reached double-digits since the release of Nasir in 2018 but given this span, his fans and hip-hop aficionados continue to herald the impact of his debut album Illmatic. Celebrating 25 years this year, the “Cherry Wine” rapper raised a glass in commemoration of this milestone by previously hosting a Symphony Orchestra performance and receiving accolades along the way.

However, during an interview with Haute Living, the Queens native said although he’s grateful for the love of his platinum-selling project, “it has started to take on a life of its own.” The 46-year-old continued to state his claim by noting that the rest of his discography is worthy of recognition and that this year has been a good run for Illmatic.

"Twenty-five years is a lifetime. So I did another Symphony Orchestra show for Illmatic this year; I got another plaque for it. I’m very grateful—it’s so crazy—but to celebrate one album when I’ve made over 10, all the things I’ve worked on—and I’ve been working for so long—to celebrate one album over all else is corny to me," he said. "I don’t want to celebrate another Illmatic anything. I’m done. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for appreciating that record, but it’s over.”

While music will always remain a passion—Nas mentioned a third and fourth installment of his The Lost Tapes series—the entertainer might take his talents to other areas of creativity and entrepreneurship. “Maybe [I’ll open] a new level bookstore, maybe [I’ll do] Broadway,” he said. “I do three things at a time; that’s how I live. The next three things I do, I hope they’re more exciting than anything that I’ve ever done.”

Illmatic remains one of music's most vivid and poetic albums, hosting quintessential East Coast rap melodies from DJ Premier, Large Professor, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, Faith N., and L.E.S. The sole feature goes to fellow The Firm member AZ.

In an interview with Red Bull, Nas discussed the real-life situations Illmatic hosts within its tracks which aids in its truth of standing the test of time. "There’s a lot of historical value in there. Back then there was a killing of a guy named [Jose “Kiko”] Garcia in Washington Heights by the police that I mention in my lyrics. I talk about the Supreme Team, a drug gang in Queens, and their leader named Supreme, who is now locked up," he said. "I talk about Ron G who was a Harlem mixtape DJ who was really popular at the time. It was kind of the first time you’d hear street conversation by someone who knew these guys personally at the time."

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Halle Berry Is #TeamZoeKravitz As Catwoman For Upcoming 'Batman' Film

Earlier this month, it was announced that actress/musician Zoe Kravitz would step into the sleuthing role of Catwoman for Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Joining in on the chorus of people that are elated to see Kravitz in this role is fellow Catwoman Halle Berry.

The Oscar Award-winning actress took to Twitter to congratulate Kravitz on her new job, writing “Keep shining queen and welcome to the family!” Kravitz will star opposite Twilight’s Robert Pattinson who’ll play the Dark Knight.

Special shout-out to your new #CatWoman, the eternally graceful & extremely bad ass @ZoeKravitz. Keep shining Queen & welcome to the family! ♥️✨ pic.twitter.com/9YJ2EekcNG

— Halle Berry (@halleberry) October 17, 2019

In 2004, Berry starred as Catwoman in the film of the same name. Directed by Pitof, the movie also starred Alex Borstein, Benjamin Bratt, Frances Conroy, and Sharon Stone. Although the movie wasn't a box office success, Berry said it opened up a world of opportunities in Hollywood.

"Everybody around me said, 'Girl, don't do it. It's going to be the death of you. It's going to end your career.' But guess what I did? I followed my intuition and I did a movie called Catwoman and it bombed miserably," Berry said at 2004's Matrix Awards, per Glamour. "While it failed to most people, it wasn't a failure for me because I met so many interesting people that I wouldn't have met otherwise, I learned two forms of martial arts and I learned not what to do."

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Issa Rae Launches Her Own Record Label

Issa Rae has a lot of projects in the works, and she’s making room for another big venture. On Thursday (Oct. 18), the Insecure star announced the launch of her new record label, Raedio, along with introducing the world to TeaMarr, the imprint’s first artist.

“Beyond excited to present the first amazingly talented artist from my new label RAEDIO,” the Emmy winner captioned a clip of TeaMarrr’s music video where she makes a cameo.


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Beyond excited to present the first amazingly talented artist from my new label RAEDIO, TeaMarrr (@imaliltcup)! Check out her song and video, "Kinda Love" on all streaming platforms now! (@theraedio)

A post shared by Issa Rae (@issarae) on Oct 18, 2019 at 8:06am PDT

The record label is a partnership with Atlantic Records, according to Variety. Rae’s label will also be responsible for supervising the music on A Black Lady Sketch Show, which she executive produces.

“Music has always been an essential part of every project I do and working with emerging talent is a personal passion,” Rae said in a statement. “Raedio allows me to continue that work within the music industry and audio entertainment space. The Atlantic team are innovators in terms of shifting and shaping culture. I’m excited to join forces with them to discover new artists.”

Raedio is technically her first foray into the recording industry, but music has always been a “central character” in Insecure, Atlantic Chairman & COO Julie Greenwald noted.

“Issa Rae is a next-level, future-thinking creative force who’s been breaking down cultural barriers and conquering one field after another,” said Greenwald. “She’s made music a central character in her artistic evolution, and now she’s brought all that amazing passion, inspiration, and taste to the formation of Raedio. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Issa and her team on this exciting new venture, and TeaMarrr is the perfect artist to launch with.”

Wath TeaMarrr's  “Kinda Love” music video below.

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