The day after Thanksgiving brings about amazing deals — 30 percent off an entire store, buy one get one, flash sales, free shipping and the works. But rarely do you see something given away completely free of charge.
On Black Friday in 2015, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar gave their fans some goodies, free of charge: two songs where they rapped over each other’s beat, and a hint at a future collaboration.
Rapping over the “A Tale of 2 Citiez” beat from J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Kendrick unleashes a single, unbroken verse for the masses. The braggadocious rhymes take aim at the current state of rapping, informing listeners that the competition couldn’t hold a candle to him. The verse contains some infectious quotes like, “Kendrick Lamar, the people’s champion, I’m an animal for analysts,” and “Swallowed the key and kicking the door in, never leasing my foreign.”
For his song, J. Cole takes over Pharrell’s Grammy award-winning “Alright” instrumental. Cole’s subject matter doesn’t stray too much from K. Dot’s with lots of lines regarding his supremacy in the rap game, and his distaste for America’s system of governance. The song is full of great lyrics like, “Cole world you should stay off this dick/ I sold out the Garden I should play for the Knicks,” but none are as important as those in the outro.
In this outro, Cole first mentions that the public wouldn’t be able to handle a joint album, but follows that up by saying, “This February, bet shit get scary when I fuck around and drop,” before a censor noise drowns out his voice.
While this is a notable moment for the progress of the album because they’re finally giving a date — which went on to be ignored — it’s far from the only time the project has been alluded to.
Back in a 2012 interview with Nessa, Kendrick planted the seeds of a potential collaboration. He said he’d been “rocking with J. Cole since the day of his XXL shoot,” and added that both rappers have the mindset of, “Let’s work together and make each other better.”
K. Dot expressed further interest in March 2015 while promoting To Pimp a Butterfly, telling the Hot 97 crew, “I would definitely love to do it.” But after the Black Friday songs dropped, February 2016 passed without any update.
In December 2016, Ab-Soul, a frequent collaborator of Kendrick Lamar, weighed in on the album in an appearance on The Breakfast Club. “These guys … they move like the mob. You never know with these guys,” he said. “They got something in the works. They’ve been working on that motherfucker for a while.”
So why is this getting so delayed? The answer, more than anything, is tempo. While Future and Drake can bang out What a Time to Be Alive in six days, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar work at a slower, more thoughtful pace.
With two rap superstars joining forces, the album has the potential to be a modern day version of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne. The question is, will it be executed at all?
When J. Cole sat down with Angie Martinez for an unexpected interview in May 2018, he made it clear that fans shouldn’t hold their breath. “They shouldn’t get their hopes up,” the Dreamville MC said. “I don’t want to keep teasing people, playing with people’s emotions.”