J. Cole: “I heard the beat and it sounded real epic. It gave me crazy emotion when I heard it, so I instantly thought, ‘Oh, shit. This is ‘Dollar & A Dream III!’’ I usually don’t work like that but I didn’t make the beat and I was so drawn to it, I just knew right away.
“There’s a few things in my career that define me and who I am. Like, the Simba concept is definitely one of those. ‘Lights Please’ is a defining moment and ‘Dollar & A Dream’ and ‘Dollar & A Dream II’ are defining songs.
‘Dollar & A Dream’ and ‘Dollar & A Dream II’ are totally different from each other, but they still embody the same feelings. The first mixtape ever, I had ‘Dollar & A Dream,’ the second mixtape, I had ‘Dollar & A Dream II,’ so it’s just important that I continue the ‘Dollar & A Dream’ story.”
I wrote the beginning of that first verse right there because it reminded me of Jay-Z’s ‘The Dynasty Intro.’ I got a couple references on there [to the ‘Dynasty Intro’], like the Stevie Wonder reference. It’s subtle shit that you may not first pick up on. - J. Cole
“I wrote the beginning of that first verse right there because it reminded me of Jay-Z’s ‘The Dynasty Intro.’ I got a couple references on there [to the ‘Dynasty Intro’], like the Stevie Wonder reference. It’s subtle shit that you may not first pick up on. But it had that ‘The Dynasty Intro’ feel, so I wrote to that first verse then.
“Then, I kind of left it alone. I didn’t come back and record it, I just had it. On the tour bus, while we were on the Rihanna tour, I just laid that verse, wrote the second one, changed the music around, and it just took shape.
“That night, I was just happy I had ‘Dollar & A Dream III,’ but as I started playing it for people, I realized, ‘Oh, shit. Wait a minute, this is the intro.’ I speak on so many current things that’s happening; I’m talking to my fans, I’m talking to my family, I’m speaking on a lot of shit, so I thought that was an appropriate intro.
“[The ‘nice guy with a mean flow’ thing has] been my thing for a long time because I think that’s most of us. We’re good people in our hearts, we just don’t always make the best decisions or we don’t always do shit we actually proud of.
“We know we’re good but we don’t mind doing something that most people consider bad on a regular basis. Nobody’s all the way bad, all the time. And nobody’s good all the time, never do anything bad that they’re ashamed of. That’s always been my thing. [That’s why my logo has] a set of horns and a halo. That’s all of us.