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All signs are pointing toward a new J. Cole album in 2018

Ralph Bristout

 // Jan 31, 2018

J. Cole is up to something.

It's become somewhat of a well-known fact that when J. Cole retreats from the spotlight, new music is on the horizon. As history will have it, this Luke Skywalker disappearing trick typically lasts for about two years. He released his chart-topping debut Cole World: The Sideline Story in 2011, and waited two years before dropping the follow-up Born Sinner. In 2014, he returned with 2014 Forest Hills Drive, before dropping 4 Your Eyez Only two years later. Looking at the calendar, the two-year mark is up in December. If you've been following the stream of his recent activities, Cole is definitely prepping something. Neither Cole nor his Dreamville camp has said a word or whisper about a new album, but the silence speaks volumes.

Haters be damned, J. Cole is in the Mount Rushmore of rap's current era. Cole's music contains a level of truth, vulnerability, and transparency that connects with listeners differently from his classmates Kendrick Lamar and Drake. He isn't as acclaimed as K. Dot, and he doesn't possess the poppy sensibilities of Drake, but Cole draws a line in this airspace as an out-of-vogue superstar with all the statistical superstar trappings. He can freely release music without warning and then go "platinum with no features". He isn't as ubiquitous as the hottest acts, but can still sell out Madison Square Garden and Staples Center. Everyone from Nas, to Remy Ma, to French Montana have hailed him as one of the best of his generation. All of this is considered in the mounting buzz behind his fifth studio album. Check the trail of J. Cole breadcrumbs below as we prepare ourselves for the next project from Fayettenam's finest.

Getting busy in the booth with Swizz Beatz, Dr. Dre, and others

Over a week ago, Wale shared a clip on Instagram of the two "workin on new vibes." More recently, the North Carolina native was spotted with Royce Da 5'9" on the set of a mysterious video shoot, seemingly confirming an upcoming collaboration.

There's also even more music that we haven't heard yet. During the first leg of the 4 Your Eyez Tour last summer, Cole was spotted in the studio with producer Dem Jointz, Mell Beets, King Mez, J. LBS, and the one and only Dr. Dre. The photo was mysteriously captioned, "Blue Lights." In November, he raised eyebrows again after Swizz Beatz posted a photo of the two, also in the studio. "Told you I'm in Album mode !!!!," the beatsmith captioned the photo. "@realcoleworld good vibes and Magic Zone ☠️☠️☠️☠️☠️☠️ the graduation is over !!!" With Dre reportedly reviving Detox from its ancient slumber and Swizz Beatz working on his I'm With the Smoke album, there's a chance that Cole has a hand or two on both projects. Additionally, when you're in the studio with legends like Dr. Dre and Swizzy, it would be hard-pressed not to draw some kind of inspiration that scratches a creative itch. And besides, for all of his albums post-Born Sinner, Cole has allowed more outside producers to step into Cole World. opening the floor for outside producers to step in. His last two projects featured production from Boi-1da, Vinylz, Illmind, Cardiak, Pop Wansel, Frank Dukes, and Childish Major to name a few.

Fire guest appearances

Despite not releasing an album last year, Cole did spend 2017 gifting some of your favorite rappers with solid guest verses. He spazzed on "American Dream" for Jeezy, lent wisdom on "AfricAryaN" for Logic, offered light on "Legendary" for Joey Bada$$ and blessed Miguel with another solid collab on "Come Through and Chill." Societal woes, spirituality, Trump-America, and the fury of Mr. Burn Suckers were all the elements sprinkled across these lyrical hot sauce packets. Considering the fact that all of this takes place on music for others, imagine what is being put together for his own.

Increased visibility

J. Cole has built a bit of reputation as a recluse, especially while he's creating: he seems to isolate himself until it's time to release his work to the world. But this year, he's popped up a few times. He's shared some advice with Cardi B on Twitter and later in person. He also recently visited the Los Angeles BMX store OnSomeShit to speak with Adam22, of the No Jumper podcast, to discuss topics like religion, XXXTentacion, and more. Maybe the thoughtfulness, or the topics of this interview, will pop up on his next album?

Hitting the road

J. Cole is set to headline two music festivals this summer. He does the Wireless Festival in London, and the WOO HAH! festival in the Netherlands - both in July. What better show material than a new album that fans will have memorized by the time he hits the stage?

UPDATE

New verse for ESPN for the NBA Playoffs

Teaming with ESPN and the NBA, Cole provided the playoff season with a new motivational verse. With the task of lending his talents to bless their new promo with an original verse, Cole delivered on all counts for the visual promo. "Never sleep on a man that's expected to lose/With a chip on his shoulder and something to prove," he spits, while the screen shows a video montage of Westbrook. It's one of the very few new verses released by the rapper during the early part of 2018.

Changes social media header and avi

As of April 16, Cole has swapped the avatar and header on his social media pages, including Twitter. Going for a simple purple, the move is the first profile change on his pages since the release of Cozz's Effected album.

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