J. Cole Speaks On New Mixtape, ‘Villematic’ & Linking With Danja
So what’s the theme of the mixtape? Is it in the same vein as The Come Up and The Warm Up?
I’m thinking about finishing it off and doing the official Blow Up. The Come Up, The Warm Up, then The Blow Up, right into the album. So it could be that, the last story in the saga, but I might change my mind tomorrow. All my fans know I’m the worst with titles. [Laughs]. I ain’t even give ‘em the title of the album yet, ‘cause I feel like until I get that release date, shit might change.
True. Once you give the title, if the release date gets pushed back crazy far people are still waiting for that album with that title.
You’re absolutely right. Like Dre calling his album Detox. I love Dr. Dre, and of course I’m waiting on Detox too, but is it Detox anymore? [Laughs] I reserve the right to change the album title because what if it’s not the same album I named back in December? I’m not into just naming something to name it. There’s a method behind my little madness.
How do you distinguish what should make the album and what should be on the mixtape?
It’s super tough because I got a whole bunch of songs [that] probably weren’t going to make the album anyway because I only have a certain amount of slots on the album. They’re still album songs. Now that the mixtape is about to come out, I look at certain songs like, Damn, do I really wanna put this on the mixtape? It’s just too good! I guess it’s just a sacrifice that you gotta make.
You were against the idea of a mixtape before. Was it a spur-of-the-moment decision to drop one?
That came about from that same night I made “Villematic.” I was going through all my music and not really being able to tell the people when the album is coming. I’d rather put some shit out and clear up some room on my playlist. What’s the point of sitting on all these songs? What am I gon’ do, Lost Tapes? Some of these songs might sound old in a year or two. I just need an outlet to release some music. And I’m tired of performing the same damn songs at my shows. [Laughs]
You have “Blow Up” now, which is like the culmination of high-caliber raps and a high-caliber beat. Is that record symbolic for you?
Absolutely. Even what you just said—it definitely was that moment where my production had obviously reached that next level. It was like, “Man, I’m there now.” I’m not the best, but I’m obviously growing as a producer.
Did you do anything different in making that beat?
I spent so long on that beat. I started out with just the drums, sample and a regular loop. I had that hook too, but when I started to make that song, I brought the musicians and that’s when we made the (sings) “la la la-la.” With the musicians, we added the “song for my haters” part. The music on that part—on the bridge—is incredible. The musicality of that song is ridiculous. That’s gotta be on my album.
What’s your process when you’re producing?
It’s evolving, man. I used to just start with the sample and then add the drums. That was years ago, and lately, I’ve just been having fun with the drums. I’ll do some drums I love, then come up with a melody or play with a sample over on top. Now I got a lot of musicians in the studio, so that’s a whole process within itself. It makes the process way more fun. I got way more options, but I normally start with the drums, as of late.
You’ve worked with some pretty experienced producers, from No I.D. to Jim Jonsin. Is there anything you’ve learned specifically from them?
I learn from each producer that I go in with. I also learned a whole lot from No I.D.—I was in with him probably longer than any other producer. I learned from Jim Jonsin to just have fun, follow whatever melodies come to your mind. Just follow that. Whatever comes to his mind he just lays it down. I got in with Danja recently, and, man, he’s a beast. I need to step up my key-playing ability. That’s what I learned from watching him, ‘cause he’s self-taught but he’s such a monster. I’m self-taught, and I’m good, but I could be way better. So that’s my new mission, and also to have more faith in creating original melodies. I have the ability, but sometimes I just lean on samples too much.
Y’all working on anything specific?
Oh, I went in [and] we did a few records. One in particular is a huge record. Me and Danja, we got a good chemistry. I’d love to get in with him again.
Would you ever do an album featuring just one producer’s beats?