Swizz Beatz’ upcoming album Poison, his first since 2007’s One Man Band Man, features a slew of A-list guest appearances, but perhaps the most important contributor’s voice doesn’t appear on the album: J. Cole, who served as executive producer.
“People are going to spaz out when they see who it is because it’s a person that’s way younger than me,” Swizz told VIBE, reclining in a chair after playing the album in its near entirety. He posted a photo with J. Cole on Instagram in November 2017, and days after VIBE‘s visit in September 2018, he would release the official tracklist with J. Cole’s name listed on the back cover. “But they were giving me critiques and giving me different zones. I’m always a student. So why am I too cool to act like I can’t listen to J. Cole?”
Cole and Swizz have a close friendship, and Swizz initially set up a meeting for the two to contribute to each other’s projects. He brought Cole on board for Poison in a more involved capacity after realizing that they were on the same wavelength. Young Simba was unafraid to give unconventional advice of cutting potential hit songs that were “f**king up the flow” of the album.
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“He came to the studio, and I played the first five tracks. He was like, ‘damn.’ Then I played him the ‘big’ sh*t,” Swizz said. “He was telling me everything I was feeling. ‘It’s going to go, but I need more of (the previous songs).’ He was the first person to say that. I could see people’s body language say it, but nobody said it. Not even people on my team.”
Along with advising on the creation of the album itself, Swizz said that J. Cole gave input on the sparse direction he would take for visuals.
“I wanted something different, and J. Cole gave me that. Don’t shoot no expensive videos. Drop the video on WorldStar. Feed it to the kids,'” Swizz said. “He and my son were telling me all types of different vibes, and I want to credit him because I used those things. I’m not too cool to give him his props.”
Swizz whittled down 70 songs to a trim 10 or 11 and said that he strived to make an “East Coast Chronic,” referencing Dr. Dre’s classic 1992 solo debut. The album’s 10 tracks include appearances by Kendrick Lamar, Jadakiss, Styles P, Nas, Lil Wayne, Jim Jones, Pusha T, Giggs, Young Thug, and 2 Chainz – all sounding as inspired as ever. With the help of co-producers like AraabMuzik, MusicMan Ty, and Avery Chambliss, Swizz crafts a layered, orchestral version of the hard-knocking sounds that have become a signature of his career.
“Pistol On My Side (P.O.M.S.),” featuring Lil Wayne, was released Thursday night (Sept. 13) as the album’s first single.
“I handed all the creativity on the album to the artists, in their comfort zone. I didn’t make it about Swizz. It’s my album, but I’m a producer, and it needs to be about the artists that’s on it,” Swizz said. “I wanted it to be lyrically, the best album this year, last year, and the year … after.
“Some people think I’m crazy because I took off some big, number one records that would’ve charted on Billboard,” he added. “But when you do what’s passionate, who knows what can be a number one hit or number one there.”
Poison drops on Epic Records on Friday, November 2, 2018.