J. Cole fans are readying themselves for an early Christmas gift this year.
The 31-year-old rapper is reportedly preparing to release his fourth studio album, 4 Your Eyez Only, on iTunes Dec. 9. But with no formal single release ahead of time, promotions, or even a bird signal for that matter, fans are left not knowing what to expect––especially since Cole announced this past October that he would not be performing for a while.
Fast forward to the anniversary of his most successful project to date, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, and we have yet another unexpected album. But will it be a classic?
Will this marketing ploy prove once again to be successful for J. Cole?
In an effort to give fans some insight into the project, Cole released Eyez, a 40-minute behind-the-scenes documentary of his project. And of course, there are plenty of gems. Here is everything we learned about J. Cole’s album-making process.
He is producing the album. Nothing new here. Cole has been extremely hands-on with the production of his work, dating back to The Come Up and The Warm Up mixtape days. So what does that mean for Cole connoisseurs? They’ll get more of the same taste level in terms of beats and sounds (aka so long trap drum beats and hello musicality).
No features? A large part of what made 2014 Forest Hills Drive such a success was that it had no guest features. Although we can’t confirm for an absolute fact that there won’t be any features, we can say there were none spotted in the doc.
He’s keeping it all in the Dreamville family. Other than two production guys, the Dreamville squad seems to be Cole’s go-to. Dreamville president, Ib, makes several appearances as Cole’s right-hand man and recently signed Dreamville singer Ari Lennox was also spotted dropping vocals for a track.
Music videos were made simultaneously with the album. In the first ten minutes, we see Cole back in his hometown of North Carolina riding in the back of a pickup truck and rapping along to a punchy new track titled, “Everybody Gotta Die.” We also see how J. Cole ended up on a public transit bus in Queens. We should have guessed it—he was shooting a video for the song “False Prophet."
He recorded in New York. Most his album-making process appears to have taken place at the Electric Lady Studios.
He's pulling from unconventional samples. Cole connoisseurs know that J. Cole lives for a good sample. This time around, it looks like he’s going for something a little unconventional. In one of the scenes, he’s vibing out to a song from The Jungle Book.
He’s playing more instruments. More than once, Cole is seen playing piano and guitar (although he's admittedly not very good at the guitar).
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He's still a lover of live music. We spotted an organist, trumpet player and a violinist laying down tracks.
He opens up about his mental and emotional cycle of pulling this album together. Cole has disconnected from social media to focus on family and music solely, he says in the doc. We see him work through reconnecting with the social issues that made Forest Hills Drive such a success, and that means going back to North Carolina, back to his old studio at Muhammad’s crib, and back to releasing himself of the pressures put on him from the music business.
He's coming back for the top spot. In the first track we hear on the doc, J. Cole takes clear shots at, well, everybody. Although he doesn’t name anyone explicitly, he does take time to address all the rappers he thinks he's better than: “fake deep rappers,” “amateur eight-week rappers,” “fake drug dealers turned tour bus trappers,” “hipster rappers,” and just about every other rapper you can think of. Properly named “Everybody Gotta Die,” Cole is clear that he is scared of no one.
His message is consistent. From the few clips we heard, Cole’s message will be more of the same: promoting self-awareness and becoming a socially conscious citizen who doesn't fall victim to systematic failures. In short, stay woke.
He still needs to ride that bike. If you’re in New York, look up. You might catch Cole casually riding with a pair of headphones on.
Watch the documentary Eyez exclusively on TIDAL.