In an interview with The Combat Jack show, Cole spoke extensively about his childhood, industry relationships -- with Kendrick Lamar for example, and what that "Control" verse changed -- and of course, the risk of his album's (non) roll-out plan, which led to a massive first week.
"To put the album out the way I did, I had to come to grips with myself that it might flop," he said of his limited press run. "I knew it was my best but I didn't know if no singles or no promotion would be a risk. I had to tell myself, 'This album could potentially come out and sell terribly -- are you gonna be okay with that? Is that worth people hearing it at one time and doing no singles?'"
Cole said that he even took some calculated measures, like not fully mastering the album for it's maximum loudness. "I'm not a club artist. I'm not making my sh-- for the clubs, my sh-- is for your headphones and your whip."
Conversations about the competitive rap industry inevitably led to his relationship with Kendrick Lamar.
Cole recalled meeting the Compton rapper at an XXL Freshman Cover shoot and immediately clicking with him. (Cole says he was running late for the shoot and Kendrick was legitimately trying to take his spot).
After seeing him perform at an album release party, he actually wanted to sign Kendrick, and even gushed about him to Dr. Dre. "In my mind he was the first person I'd ever found that I remember telling everyone, 'Yo I'm tryna sign this kid. This n---s nasty."
A few years later Cole says he was surprised to see Kendrick go platinum before him, but he knew it was in the cards.
And yes, he did have some feelings about the "Control" verse, which he called "a big moment in hip-hop."
"It was a perfectly well-played thing in terms of a chess move. That verse did a lot for me," he said. "I didn't really hear the line [at first], I heard the loudness of the people. I had to have a conversation with him, I just had to find out for myself,' What's that? What does that mean? Please tell me what is that, I gotta know, because I really f--k with you."
"I had to be snapped back into the reality that this is rap," Cole continued. "This is competitive, this is a sport, this sh-t is like basketball. You can't feel a way. That's all it was."