What J. Cole’s Learned From… Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, No I.D. & Mark Pitts


Dr. Dre said ‘Sequence the album, while you’re making it.’ I should’ve listened to that, but I didn’t. I waited till the end to sequence [Cole World: The Sideline Story and then it was hard as fuck.

I think I was trying to explain to Jay-Z something about why I couldn’t put out a particular record and said ‘Yo man, you gotta understand my fans look at me like I’m the chosen one. If I put that out they’ll look at me like I’m crazy.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Yo, I could fill a graveyard full of chosen ones’ and went on to say how it’s about keeping old fans, but reaching new ones. So when said that it basically meant, ‘Do you want to be the chosen one and never grow?’ Because to me Cannabis was the chosen one in my book, but it never really panned out for him. 

No I.D. taught me that there’s no rules in making music. When I was growing up as a rap nerd, I created rules in my head of what rappers can and can’t do. And same with producers—like it’s a cardinal sin to use the same sample. Like if someone already flipped a sample, thinking it’s off limits. But that’s not the truth, maybe you can freak it and do it better. The same reason I put a Paula Abdul sample on “Work Out,” because I learned that Kanye doesn’t play by any rules. So he’s not going to play by rules and Jay-Z’s not going to play by rules, then I would be a fool to live by these false rules that really just create a box around you.

Mark Pitts said the greatest quote ever, I might get it as a tattoo one day. He said ‘Play the game to change the game.’ It’s as simple as that and it works for all levels that I’ve been on in this career thus far. Like you come in with the intention to change the game, which I did and still have. But you can’t change the game until you actually get in it and learn how to maneuver through it. Build the right relationships, build the right fanbase and get the right power. You get the power by playing the game. Those were ill words. 

I also got some other great advice from Jay-Z. One time I was complaining about being on the road so much. My vibe was like how am I supposed to make an album the way I want to when I’m on the road so much. And he was like ‘Yo ni–a that’s where you need to be because that’s where you get these experiences. You go to the club, you saw what works and what doesn’t work. You get the stories so you can incorporate them in your verses better. 


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