The J. Cole Q&A: ‘The Throne’ As Competition, Internet Hate and His Relationship With Rihanna


There’s no way J. Cole could get away with having a takeover sans an inquisitive interview. Our own Tracy Garraud (@trayhova) pulled Fayetteville’s luminary from his late night studio session for a candid chat about this mistakes he’s made during his debut buildup, the mistakes some of Internet believes he’s made and why his bossman and his partner-in-crime should be on the lookout. 

VIBE: I’ve heard some people wonder why you don’t work with other producers more. This debut is mainly your creation from the ground up, but Hov could probably link you with any beat king you want. Why’s it so important for you to have control over the boards?
J. COLE: It really has nothing to do with money. There’s a financial benefit of course, but that’s not what I think about at all. It comes from doing all of this since I was 15. I couldn’t get beats from anyone else so I had to make them myself. And I’ve always been a very controlling person, like I write my own destiny type shit, so that’s how it started. But then I got smart about it and realized ‘Oh shit, I have a sound.’ And the benefit of it is is that my destiny is in my own hands. My fans love me for me, my beats, my rhymes. Of course I will step out like the Bryan Kidd record [‘Can’t Get Enough’] and I’ll always work with other producers, but as long as I stay true to my specific sound, my fans won’t leave. I could lose my deal tomorrow and I would still have my fans. I could do this theortically forever because I have a sound.

You produced Kendrick Lamar’s prized ‘HiiiPower’ record. Is there anyone outside hip-hop we’d be surprised to hear you’d like to produce for?
I think everybody who’s talented is fair game. But I got a long way to go before I get my name out there. I think if I did something in the pop world right now, it would be for Rihanna. I’d love to do something production wise for her. 

Speaking of her, I read an interview with her where she admitted that before Katy Perry and her assistant, all of her friends were guys. Can you see why?
I can see that that’s true, because she’s cool as shit. One of the biggest pop stars in the world and she never once made me or anyone else around feel like that. You would’ve thought she was an unsigned artist or something, she’s mad cool.

Not surprised to hear that. I see she’s also making a cameo in your ‘Can’t Get Enough’ video. But with your first single ‘Workout,’ there was an early video version that leaked and looks different from this one. Why the switch up?
The “Workout” video [you see now] is what it should’ve been the first time. Real simple, fun and summertime. What leaked was as much as I had ever seen, the first edit, which I hated. No disrespect to the director, but I bumped my head and learned my lesson on that. You can’t shoot a video just based off the treatment. The director is very talented, don’t get me wrong, but the colors just didn’t feel right. Thank God my label let me reshoot it. ‘Can’t Get Enough’ is opposite that video though. It’s on a much grander scale, got a ‘Big Pimpin” vibe.

It definitely has potential to be your break out song. Especially when it comes to women really paying attention. Were you searching for a song with that type of energy?
Originally I couldn’t ever for see that song, I could only pray for that type of song. When I started making this album I didn’t have the ability to make that record. It took a good year to even learn what it took to make that song—going on the road with Jay and watching him do ‘Big Pimpin’… I wanted that. I remember going into the studio with No I.D. and telling him ‘Yo, I need a ‘Big Pimpin” because the energy is so crazy when Jay performs that song.’ But I didn’t have the right tools yet as a rapper.

What tools were you missing?