J. Cole's Back to Making Dope Beats, What Will the New Album Sound Like?

It's been almost two years since "2014 Forest Hills Drive" - what does this behind-the-scenes clip mean for the future of new Cole music?
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It's been almost two years since "2014 Forest Hills Drive" - what does this behind-the-scenes clip mean for the future of new Cole music?

Last month we heard from Cardo (who is in the running for Producer of the Year), about how he sent some beats to J. Cole; hopefully on "Seen It All" levels of flame. Though it wasn’t anything official, it at least meant that Cole is thinking about his next album, a small victory for fans who have been anxiously awaiting the follow up to 2014 Forest Hills Drive, the album that catapulted Cole into hip-hop's elite.

Though the whole dinosaur is still buried deep in the dirt, we’ve uncovered another fossil. All respect to Cardo, but this one is way cooler and way more exciting than a quote from an interview. Not only does it show that Cole is back to making music, it shows us what that process looks like.

As fans we focus so much on the end product, the newness of a new J. Cole single, that we don’t often pay attention to or think about how the music's made. It’s fascinating not just to hear about an artist “working” but to see that process. Seeing Cole take a sample, pitch it up, layer it with drums and play with the keys until he has it just right - until it has that Dreamville sound - is a alluring glimpse behind the curtain.

I was happy to see Ron Gilmore as well. Similar to Sounwave for Kendrick, Gilmore plays an instrumental role in J. Cole's production (pun intended). Cole creates the platform, but Gilmore, who seems to be “on call” and ready to work at a moment's notice, is the one who fills in the gaps and builds up the track to something album-worthy. Cole is a great producer, but like a running back with a great offensive line, it’s Gilmore who is often responsible for his tremendous strides.

The above video also provides insight into not just Cole’s process, but how music is created in the midst of an artist's busy schedule. Albums aren’t always crafted in a candle lit studio overlooking the ocean. In fact, a lot of the grunt work, the scaffolding of an album, is done in hotel rooms or in the back of a tour bus, especially when you are in the midst of an international tour run. I’m exhausted after just attending a concert, so I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to sit in the back a crowded tour bus, with people partying up front, and continue to work, but that’s why I’m not J. Cole.

This isn’t an album announcement or even a single, but between the Cardo news and this video, it feels like a storm is brewing. It might be a Cole summer, hopefully at least a Cole fall or winter, but all I can think about is what this will mean for his career. Forest Hills Drive was a defining moment for Cole and how he builds on that milestone, how he follows it up, will be a compelling story to watch develop.

Does he stick with the same formula that got him here - the tour bus video seems to show he may - or does he completely switch it up like Kendrick’s GKMC follow-up, TPAB? What will the new album look like? Will it attract Nia Long?

I’m grateful for this video, it's a fascinating behind the scene’s look, but it doesn't satiate my appetite, it only invigorates it. There are more questions now then ever, the most important being: when will we get new, freshly minted J. Cole? Soon...hopefully

Get IB on the phone!

Correction: The above clip is from J. Cole's Forest Hills Drive: Homecoming documentary, he only uploaded the clip to YouTube today and we mistakenly took it as new. Flat out mistake, our apologies for any confusion. 

Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth. His favorite album is College Dropout but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth. Illustration by Júlia Cameira.

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