You know what’s mad about what my favourite mixtape; as an artist I rarely listen to people’s music, except for stuff that I want to study. Like, I only listened to Skepta’s new album because my boy played it in the car but off my own back, I’m not really bothered about what anyone else is doing, unless I’m completely drawn to it.
But a mixtape that was significant to Coops? I would probably say all of J. Cole’s mixtapes – The Come Up, The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights. Those mixtapes are significant because he was going HAM and he was mixing all types of beats that were almost classics.
These were beats I grew up listening to and then he revamped them and put a new spin on them. I’ve always been a fan of J. Cole and his bars, and his wordplay; he gets me thinking sometimes “why didn’t I think of saying that?” It’s so simple but at the same time its good and it was inspiring to hear bars.
He’ll make something his own and its even similar to what he and Kendrick did recently, where they put vocals on each other’s beats. When Kendrick put vocals down on Cole’s beat it was a straight freestyle of bars but with Cole, he made a song out of Kendrick’s beat and that was inspiring.
I was probably in the studio when I heard the mixtapes for the first time, and my car. I listen to all of my music heavily in my car and write a lot of my music in my car as well. So I was in my car banging out J. Cole for a good year. I was on all of his tapes when he was dropping them.
This was before I started making Lost Soul [my first mixtape] and, as a musician, I was finding myself and dabbling in lots of things. I was covering Drake tunes and not really knowing where I wanted to go musically and hearing J. Cole was significant because I liked what he was talking about and the fact that he was deep with his bars but not too deep, and he packages his songs right as well. He would sing a bit but it was manly singing and it helped put me on track and helped me realise that I could do whatever I wanted.
Don’t think that just because you’re a rapper, all you can do is rap and spit bars; you’re also a vocalist so use your voice in what way you want. Play around with the microphone until you’re comfortable in that booth and be yourself. That’s what those mixtapes helped me realise.
I think its dope that Cole produces his own beats and I thought that was also inspiring because he had that vision for himself. I find it hard producing myself because, just because I make a beat, doesn’t mean I want to use it for my next single or that I want to rap on it. But on God Complex [my new mixtape], Cole’s production probably inspired me to think that some of my beats are alright, and that I should jump on them.
I remember the covers, there’s one where he’s standing with a basketball and there’s one where he’s sitting down with the ball between his legs. I like the fact that he kept them simple; it was like a step-by-step process where, on The Warm Up he’s training then on Friday Night Lights he’s in shorts, ready for the game and its game time, so it was sick to see the progression.
I’d say my favourite song to come out of all of those mixtapes was probably ‘Knock On Wood Freestyle’, but because I never had the actual CD I couldn’t say the names, I just know the songs. What he did over ‘Dead Presidents’ was dope and I’ve always wanted to jump on that beat, but I couldn’t because he did it. I’m probably not going to live up to what he did on it!
I would pay album money for each of those tapes because, content wise, they felt like albums so, about £10, real album money. But if he was on some Nipsey Hussle thing where I name my price, I’d pay £100 in total because that was top quality music that he produced.
In three words, I would describe the mixtapes as elevation, determination, and sick! You saw his elevation and progression throughout each tape, from him just being a young rapper with bars to someone who could do more.
Words by Coops.