In a fantastic interview with Rolling Stone, veteran producer No I.D., the architect behind JAY-Z's outstanding new album, 4:44, revealed that before he ever played Jay a single beat, he actually sat down with J. Cole to get his feedback on the material.
"The first person I actually went to see was J. Cole," No I.D. explained to music writer Elias Leight. "I played him [the beats] and said, 'Who do you think I should give this to?' I wanted a different perspective. We discussed some things, and it led to me hitting Jay-Z up."
After bumping into Hov at a restaurant in mid-2016, No I.D. knew he wanted to work with Jay on his next album, but he also knew he had work to do before presenting him with any potential material. "I decided to just do 500 ideas in a short amount of time," he said. "It's like shooting free throws in the gym. I'm going to do this until I have something new. When I got up in the hundreds, I thought I had something new."
So, although his name doesn't appear in the credits on 4:44, technically, J. Cole indirectly helped A&R the album. But what if, instead of encouraging No I.D. to share his progress with Jay, he decided to request the beats for himself?
Remember, six months before 4:44 arrived on TIDAL, J. Cole released his own grown-up album in 4 Your Eyez Only. While Cole didn't need to address reported infidelity issues on his own project, like Hov does on 4:44, the foundation of the LP is rooted in the adult maturation process, domestication and relationships.
In an alternative universe, instead of singing the praises of Shawn Carter for his impressive showing of vulnerability, Jay could be facing criticism for turning up over trap beats from Mike WiLL, Zaytoven and DJ Mustard.
Thank you, Cole.