Behind The Mic: J Cole and 21 Savage’s powerful track ‘A Lot’
(Credit: Wikimedia/YouTube)


Behind The Mic: J Cole and 21 Savage's powerful track 'A Lot'

J Cole is one of the most respectable artists in hip-hop today, and he’s a lyricist who has always taken his craft seriously. Cole, akin to Kendrick Lamar, has consistently released quality music over the years during what many have perceived to be a lull in hip-hop culture or even a slight regression. 

With SoundCloud rappers and mumble rappers flooding the airwaves, it is hard to find meaningful yet not overly political and depressing hip-hop music. However, J Cole is an artist that can provide just that. Coming up through mixtapes and features under Jay-Z’s record label Roc Nation, Cole first garnered attention with his 2009 second mixtape release, The Warm Up. Early in his career, Cole was bagging huge features such as Wale, Talib Kweli and, as a part of the Roc Nation roster, even featured on Jay-Z’s 2009 album The Blueprint Three. 

As fans of Cole, although the Fayetteville native has made a lot of songs, we rarely get to see how he made these songs. Exploring how the rapper produces these songs is fascinating, and even the tiniest look into his creative process is revealing.

As listeners and fans of Cole, we only get to hear what he wants. Although there’s behind-the-scenes footage of Cole performing his music videos floating around the internet, sometimes more is needed. Sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to find the hidden gems. In this article, we’ll be looking ‘Behind the Mic’ to discover the story behind J Cole’s 2019 hit ‘A Lot’ and bring you secrets no one knows about how this classic was made.

Produced by DJ Dahi and Cardi B’s producer J White, ‘A Lot’ is a new-school trap song. The track samples the 1971 soul track, ‘I Love You’ by East Of Underground. Speaking to Genius about why he chose to sample a soul track (which is uncommon in trap), DJ Dahi explained, “I’ve tried in my career to just make things that sound a little different for the artist, that sound a little bit off-kilter so that they can just tap into something different.”

Explaining how he first ended up meeting 21 Savage, Dahi detailed, “I got in contact with his A&R Erica Colter, and she said, ‘Yo, do you wanna come to Phoenix, Arizona?’ I was like, why the hell do you want me to come out there? But she was like, ‘We’re actually out here on tour with Post Malone.'”

He continued, “I was literally there for 24 hours, maybe even less! I literally just played him some samples that night. We didn’t even record anything, but he liked the vibe of that sound. We did a couple of sessions in between. I did a session with him and Donald Glover [Childish Gambino} when we did ‘Monster’.’ Dahi explained how the rapper had a song camp in Atlanta with several different singers and songwriters where he met J White.

Together they produced ‘A Lot’. Dahi explained he never went into it with the specific aim of producing a trap record, stating, “I put a basic hi-hat, kick, snare pattern, and when I made it, I didn’t say ‘I want this to be a trap type of record or a trap-influenced record’, it was more that I knew it had to be open.”

Directed by Kazakh filmmaker Aisultan Seitov, the music video for ‘A Lot’ was shot in a huge mansion that was also used in the Donald Glover comedy Atlanta. You can watch DJ Dahi explain the recording process in the video below, as well as go behind the scenes of the music video with Aisultan Seitov.