Not even one week after its release, J. Cole’s KOD album has broken Spotify and Apple Music streaming records, and is predicted to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 next week, while it continues stirring the pot with its controversial content about not only addiction but also the new generation of rappers.
Throughout the 12-track project, Cole dissects nearly every type of addiction possible, including success on “Motiv8,” money on “ATM,” sex on “Kevin’s Heart” and his own mother’s alcoholism on “Once An Addict.” In a recent (and rare) interview with Paul Cantor for Vulture, the Dreamville Records boss opened up about the meaning of KOD, his views on substance abuse, struggling with depression and his former addiction to public approval.
Check out the most revealing points from the conversation below.
The Concept For KOD Was Birthed During Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Tour
“Kendrick’s show gave me chills because I got to see what it was like to have a hit album performed, and it set off a desire,” he said. “It was a recognition — like Oh, I’ll take that again. Like looking at a menu, I’ll have that again.”
Cole Made KOD While On Family Vacation
KOD. 3 meanings.
Kids on Drugs
Kill Our Demons
The rest of the album I leave to your interpretation.
— J. Cole (@JColeNC) April 19, 2018
While on a trip to Rome, Italy, Cole’s hotel suite had a spare room, so he made a beat on his laptop, plugged in a mic, pressed record and whispered so he wouldn’t disturb his wife and kid.
Alter-Ego Kill Edward Was Inspired By His Stepfather
Cole’s stepfather, Edward, left his mother Kay in 2003 and Cole believes she spiraled into drug and alcohol use following the split. His alter-ego, Kill Edward, appears on “The Cut Off” and “FRIENDS.”
Cole Thinks TV Normalizes Drug Use
“We live in a society where all this drug use is normalized, it’s the norm, it’s okay, it’s fucking encouraged, it’s fucking promoted,” he says. “You turn on the TV — you feeling down? Of course I’m feeling down, I’m a fucking human being. Try this. Whatever this thing is. Like, nah, how about you actually feel sad and figure out what the fuck it is that got you feeling sad, so you can work on that?”
Manager Ibrahim Hamad Says He Never Wanted To Be Famous
Big Facts https://t.co/3t9CNhOaX0
— Ibrahim H. (@KingOfQueenz) April 23, 2018
Hamad, who runs Dreamville, told Vulture, “He always wanted to be respected as an artist and looked at a high level. In beginning, the fame part and the art part almost had to go hand in hand because nobody knew — you have to do these things for visibility and be as big as you can so your music can be as big as it can. He doesn’t have to do these things anymore. He can just be who he wants.”
There’s A Reason Lils Are Getting Offended By “1985 (Intro To ‘The Fall Off’)”
As HipHopDX pointed out in the KOD review, “1985” is “a one-size-fits-all forewarning.” Those responding to the closing track, “1985 (Intro To ‘The Fall Out’),” are likely defensive because deep down, Cole’s words resonated with them.
“It’s really a ‘shoe fits’ situation — several people can wear that shoe. Why you yelling at your show? You must feel attacked in some kind of way, must feel offended, and if you feel offended, then that means something rings true, something struck a chord. That’s cool with me. That’s all I ever want to do.”
His Latest Music Videos Are Breaking The Bank
KOD’s “A.T.M.” and “Kevin’s Heart” videos cost him more than $500,000 dollars to make. They are two of his most costly productions. For “Kevin’s Heart,” Cole recruited longtime friend/comedian Kevin Hart to essentially relive his cheating scandal from last year.
The Concept For “Kevin’s Heart” Came Unexpectedly
While he was lying in bed with his wife, she started scrolling on her phone and saying, “Oh no, Kevin, oh my god, Kevin.” Kevin Hart had cheated on his pregnant wife, Eniko Parrish, and was apologizing on Instagram. The news led to an intense conversation about infidelity and subsequently inspired the song.
“I thought it was dope,” Hart told Vulture. “It wasn’t done from a hateful or spiteful place. It was done with a smart intent behind it, which I think a lot of Cole’s stuff is done.”
He Wasn’t In The Right Mode To Properly Promote 4 Your Eyez Only
“I wasn’t in the life space to promote that album,” he says. When the album was released in December 2016, he’d just gotten married, his baby boy was coming and he was laying low. Producer No I.D. reportedly called him the week the project dropped and asked how felt about it but its like it’d slipped his mind he even dropped a project. “Oh, yeah.” Cole said. “I did put out an album.” He laughs it off with, “The fucking audacity, bro. What the fuck was I doing?”
Physical Copies Of KOD Were Hard To Come By For Him
After heading to his local Target in Raleigh, North Carolina, he realized, “They sold out. This is the first time I couldn’t cop like 40 physical copies of my own shit.”
— Carson Ludwig (@Carsonl64) April 22, 2018
Cole Just Downloaded Instagram Last Week …
… and his DMs were immediately flooded and he relished in the personal stories about addiction his fans told him.
Lil Peep Actually Died During KOD‘s Mixing
While making KOD, 21-year-old emo rapper Lil Peep overdosed and died. “The album is already a warning and this kid dies while I’m sitting in the studio mixing the shit — do you know how creepy that was? That shit was heavy.”
He Was Addicted To Public Approval
After signing to Roc Nation in 2009, Cole felt like the work he was producing wasn’t the real him. When Nas told No I.D. he was disappointed that Cole turned to radio hits for success, Cole wrote the song “Let Nas Down.”
“In 2012, it was infuriating, it was mad hurtful, it felt more like I was a victim,” he said. “Once I took control of my own shit, stopped giving power to other people for my happiness and success, it became like, Oh word, I’ll show you how boring I am. And it became another person to prove wrong.”
Depression Haunted Him For Years
“I didn’t like how I felt about my life,” he said. “I’d been depressed for like three years. And I realized I was putting too much importance on what other people thought about me. Also, my mom going through her shit had a traumatic impact on me, and I never had a chance to process that shit. I just put my head down. I wasn’t having an honest conversation with myself.”
And Finally, He Doesn’t Care If You Think He’s Boring
Embed from Getty Images
KOD is expected to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 but it’s also projected to be the best-selling album of 2018. So, simply put, he’s not concerned with his detractors. “Now it’s even clearer,” he says of his critics. “You’re a fucking idiot.”