J. Cole's "Wet Dreamz" & The Art of Delayed Song Releases - DJBooth

J. Cole's "Wet Dreamz" & The Art of Delayed Song Releases

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Originally, this article was supposed to be my most important investigation in my time as a music journalist. I was going to reveal that J. Cole's attempt to unite people all over the world with a song literally about jizzing in your pants, also known as "Wet Dreamz" off his 2014 Forest Hills Drive album, was actually recorded years before its release. Several strong hints, like the use of his former catch phrase "Cole world" at the beginning of the song to him doubling up his rhymes as he did on The Warm Up or the general throwback vibe of the song awakened my curiosity; I was pretty sure that the song was recorded years before, now I just needed the evidence. So I began looking...

Well, it turned out that fate and the internet had different plans. My correct assumption has already been reported by the good folks at Vibe. While my first reaction was that I'd just wasted hours worth of work, it did lead me to an even greater idea: Jermaine couldn’t be the only artist to lock away quality material for years, just to release it on a later project where it would fit in like orange juice with Coke (trust me, it's da bomb). There must be other artists who held onto quality music for years, only to eventually harvest the rewards at a better time. My investigations would be continued.

First, why exactly would any artist hold back any quality work for years, especially when the song itself remains mostly unchanged? Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to art, but especially in 2015 the pull towards more immediate gratification is intense (see all tweets ever written), so there must be a hard-hitting reason to hold back.

In the case of "Wet Dreamz," Cole created the song even before he dropped his major label debut album in 2011. Back then Cole was still trying to come up with the right recipe for a major rap hit and he had already embraced the adventures of Lil Cole (pause?) to a great extent. But loose EPs and another full length album about born sinning later, there still wasn’t the right platform for "Wet Dreamz" until Cole's 2014 album would take a trip down Memory Lane and reunite old habits with newly-learned wisdom. Finally, the world got to hear perhaps the only rap song about nervously losing your virginity in hip-hop history. 

Obviously timing plays a very important role and not every great track is meant to end up on every great album. Sometimes certain songs are greater than the current state of an artist's career and have to lay dormant for the sake of building a legacy. Case in point, "Compton," Kendrick Lamar's conclusion to his major debut album, Good Kid, m.a.a.d. City, featuring Dr. Dre. Originally intended to be included on that one album everyone knows will never drop, "Compton" was recorded early on in Kendrick and the Doctor's musical relationship. Back then K. Dot's state in the game was significantly closer to the kid from "Backseat Freestyle" than the King Kendrick of today. So picture this: Kendrick signs, Dre decides not to use "Compton" for Detox, and now he has a song with one of the biggest artists ever and a project coming out that he hopes will put him on every blog the interwebs has to offer. Alternatively, he could keep the bigger picture in mind and decide that "Compton" isn't the right place for the audio mirror of his generation that became Section80. Thankfully, Kendrick decided on the latter and his tribute song for the town that raised a good kid gone mad became a great credit song on GKMC.

Another artist that always seems to have the bigger picture in mind is Mr. Kanye Kardashian-West. On his last effort, Yeezus, "Guilt Trip" sounds like one of the less extreme songs, but that might be only because it was actually recorded during the creation process of Watch the Throne, as producer S1 revealed. Although the original version has a JAY Z verse planned, it's safe to say that the world clearly wasn’t ready then for that kind of sound compared to when Yeezus dropped.


Historically this hasn’t been the first time the Louis Vuitton Don saved a song to release later. The public love letter for his hometown Chicago is now well documented in the Chris Martin-assisted "Homecoming," but having the Coldplay poster boy sing over a piano looped instrumental wasn’t what Yeezy first had in mind. Originally going by the title "Home," the song once featured John “My Shirt Is Open” Legend and was backed by a trademark 'Ye soulful beat. "Home" had been a part of Kanye´s 2003 debut mixtape, Get Well Soon, but the Chi-Town tribute was too important to be left stranded in the internet netherworld of pre-fame mixtapes. This story, though, takes an even more interesting turn; the final version of "Homecoming" was created, mixed and mastered during the Late Registration recording sessions.* So if you thought it was an accident that "Homecoming" is the only song on Graduation that doesn’t center around Yeezus Christ himself, that's because it simply didn’t fit into his previous album, yet was too solid (and the British pop-star feature too expensive) to just let go.

Coming back around to the song about Cole's first sexy-time experience, I'm happy that being (fittingly?) late to a story opened my eyes to the process of an album's conception and the often meandering path a song can take before it's released - and I know I've just scratched the surface. At the very least, it's good to know that the wait is often worth it, even if that means you have to spend some years wet dreaming about new music from your favorite artists.

*Knowing that, my hopes are at a new high that we´ll hear both the official version of "Mama's Boyfriend" someday, and this beauty will see the light of day eventually. Pray

[Kevin Taylor is an aspiring music writer and master of the killer crossover. This is his Twitter.]

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