How To Rap Like J. Cole: His Songwriting Secrets REVEALED

How To Rap Like J. Cole: His Songwriting Secrets REVEALED

We’re going to show you some in-depth tips on how to rap like J. Cole

…And some of the best J. Cole songwriting secrets available on The Internet.

Sound good? Let’s go!

J. Cole Songwriting Secrets Overview

This article is going to cover a lot of advanced song structure secrets to increase catchiness. 

Throwing in different components that you’re gonna be using in your song is actually going to make the song more memorable and catchy. 

Let’s break down exactly what that means.

The most common rap structure is: 

Intro 

Verse

Chorus

Verse

Chorus

Repeated Chorus that you introduced in after verse 1

If we’re adding the common bar length, that means: 

8 Bar Intro

16 Bar Verse

8 Bar Chorus Introduced

16 Bar Verse 2

Repeated 8 Bar Chorus

Our YouTube training, “How To Rap Like J. Cole: His Songwriting Secrets REVEALED”

Now this is a useful sound principle and structure… 

Many people do it, and while you should be able to do it…

It’s so common it is cliche.

In the 90’s they even made it longer. They would have another 16 Bar Verse, Verse 3, and then that 8 Bar Chorus repeated. 

But advanced 21st century artists like J. Cole, Kendrick, and Kanye… they break this formula down and completely take it apart at different parts.

You might call this, “threading different catchy parts”.

Learn How To Rap Like J. Cole Building A Brick House
Songs Are Like Building Houses

Songwriting Is Like Building A House

I want you to imagine that you have all these different bricks and you could build a big house, a mansion, or alternatively… a small hut. You could build a lot of different things with these bricks.

Running with this analogy… up until a certain point rap has just been these formulaic kind of Sears Houses… and so some people are just making the same old house. 

But if you want to live in a NICE crib, a crib that you’re going to tell your friends about…

You’re going to take the bricks, different sizes, organize them in different fashions, to make something really original and exciting. 

You want each room to feel like a new experience kind of house. That’s what J. Cole does in this song… 

Learn How To Rap Like J. Cole GOMD
GOMD

How To Write A Song Like J. Cole: Structure Breakdown

What I want to do first is show you all the bricks that J. Cole is using in this song. 

This way, we can design it from the ground up and learn how to live in that mofo.

Let’s begin with the bricks that we’re going to use to build it. Now that’s each section of the song “G.O.M.D.”, step-by-step.

(It might be useful to play the song along with this breakdown as you read… or watch the video training of this at the top of this page)

First, we have the Intro of the song: “Hollywood Cole”.

Next we have the negative space: The immersive music letting the beat ride out now only do that if the music is engaging but this is going to come back later in our breakdown.

Third we have what I call the Kendrick Lamar voice: the Adlib.

Fourth we have the Pre-Verse: “Well let me tell you about it”

Next we have the Verse itself: “Everybody run… he said he got a gun”.

After that we have the two-part Chorus

“I said to the window, to the wall 

My n***a ride when I call 

Got b*****s all in my mind 

F**k n***a blocking my shine 

I know the reason you feel the way 

I know just who you wan’ be 

So everyday I thank the man upstairs 

That I ain’t you and you ain’t me…”

Then, we roll back into the Pre-Verse

But there are variations on it rather than, “you want to know just where I’m at” He says, “Man f**k them n***as I come home.”

Now number seven, There’s the – “This is the part where the thugs skip” adlib.

After that, we roll into Verse 2, and in the middle of Verse 2, we have another Kendrick voice adlib “The Breakup.”

Rolling along Verse 2 continues, now at the end of Verse 2…

We have something like a Pre-Chorus basically a transitional part between the verse leading into the chorus that builds tension that the chorus itself is going to release that tension.

This leads us to the ninth section, “but every n***a in the club singing” which he’s going to repeat and uses a refrain leading into the beat change and the third verse.

We have yet another Kendrick voice adlib repeated “The Make Up” and then of course we have the beat change itself and verse 3.

NOTE: We offer step-by-step coaching for YOUR career… click HERE to find out more

An older version of our “How To Rap Like J. Cole” breakdown from 2015

How To Rap Like J. Cole: Songwriting Keys To Success: 

Oh… that was a lot to write say but let’s build this MF’ing house. 

Now, your keys to success when you want to learn how to write a song like J. Cole

Retain melody and rhythm and then add variation

Add variation to the lyrics while retain the rhythm of each section… 

Look at things like the pre-verse he starts with “you want to know just where I’m at well let me tell you bout it, I put my city on the map”.

But then the pre-verse in verse 2 while retaining the same melody and rhythm… 

“Man f**k them n***as they go home and they don’t tell nobody.” 

That keeps the catchiness and the memorability of the rhythm and the melody of that section, while changing it a little bit so it’s still fun original and unpredictable.

The bridge has the “but every n***a in the club singing” and the “baby mamas and the mistresses.”

Again… keep the same melody while switching up the rhythm freely in these memorable sections, and of course know what to repeat when to repeat it. 

Put the bricks in the right place so that “the house” can stand nice and even.

Learn How To Rap Like J. Cole Switching The Flow
Cole Is Watching

Fill in the negative space with catchy lyrics and adlibs 

One of the easiest ways to hear somebody sound ‘amateurish’ is that they just let the beat drop or they have a little ‘break down’ in the beat… 

Yet there’s nothing happening there’s no vocal tricks or adlibs. 

Artists from J. Cole to Kendrick to even Migos (with the trap sound you already know) ‘mumble’ adlibs it makes the song more immersive.

It’s all about filling in the negative space and adding something else that the audience can grab on to. 

Now of course the beat does have those sections that are just music… 

But usually it’s because the music’s introducing other instruments in which fills the space itself.

Think about it: we’ve got the strings in the beginning, we’ve got the beat change before verse 3 but overall no matter what the key is…

J. Cole fills in the negative space, finds different things like the Kendrick voice adlib – “This is the part that the thugs skip” – and rocks out.

Learn How To Rap Like J. Cole Using The Kick Drum
Search For Opportunities

NOTE: If you’d like to hear the full story of Rap Game Now, check out our in-depth history article by clicking HERE.

Search For Opportunities To Have A Catchy Pre-Verse or Pre-Chorus

Now if you’ve seen our article on J. Cole’s ‘Power Trip’ we talk a lot about pre- chorus as well. 

We also have a great video on Future and Nicki Minaj’s use of pre-choruses and intro’s / outro’s.

But overall, always be searching for where to put another brick to make this a really fly mansion… 

And not just the cliche, “verse chorus verse chorus” that we discussed in the stiff song structure at the top of this article.

BONUS TIP : How To Rap Like J. Cole… Flow Secrets

All right. You made it this far. 

We have to talk about verse 3 because the flow is totally different… the beat is totally different… everything’s switched up. 

I remember when I first heard this thing I was like OH MY LORD. I already thought this song was tight… and then he come in with a whole new beat and even says how wild it is in the song! “This s*** is retarded.”

What I want to hip you to hear is that one of the main changes in the beat itself on verse 3 is the kick drum.

(I suggest listening to the instrumental of this section or viewing the YouTube training to follow along)

So, you hear that active kick drum. What J. Cole is going to do and this is the flow trick where he rides that drum.

You need to do the same thing and focus on the kick drum as a template. To keep running that house analogy… this kick drum is the blueprint for how you’re going to write your flow. 

When you hear a beat, if there is an active kick drum I want you to make sure to try to find ways that you can ride it cleanly.

This will help you to really sound like you’re “in the pocket”, as they say.

So that’s a little bonus round now. I thank you for getting all the way through this. This is a lot of great information I hope you really enjoy it. I’m super excited hopefully you can hear that in my voice.

Learn How To Rap Like J. Cole Forest Hills Drive
Classic album. Yeah I said it!

Conclusion

So overall let’s have a review of what we’ve just discussed and the advanced nature of how to write a song like J. Cole:

A song is like a house… and to make the best house possible, you need to place the “bricks” (song structure components) in interesting and unique ways.

The Most Common Rap Structure is Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus

While this is a very common technique and can make a great song, it has become a little bit cliche and stiff.

It’s not very creative… 

It’s just like those McMansions you see in the suburbs… they all look the same. I don’t know which street I’m driving on. I got to call my friend on Google Maps… haha.

J. Cole Songwriting Secrets Use Advanced Artistry 

When you’re using advanced song structure, you’re getting closer to the the great artists of today… the J. Cole’s, the Kendrick’s, the Kanye’s, etc.

You’re going away from sounding like every other artist… which we know we don’t want to sound like. 

One of your biggest fears as an up-and-coming rapper is sounding like everybody else we talked about.

Retain melody and rhythm and then add variation

Add variation to the lyrics while retain the rhythm of each section!

Fill in the negative space with catchy lyrics and adlibs

Don’t let your beat feel “hollow” by not adding in additional catchy sections and ad-libs.

Search For Opportunities To Have A Catchy Pre-Verse or Pre-Chorus

These are the easiest ways to get the crowd singing and J. Cole uses this a LOT in tracks like G.O.M.D.

Bonus Tip: If the beat has an active “kick drum”, use it as a template for your flow

Now build that greatmansion style house in the Hollywood hills looking down at the great city… Metaphorically of course! 

In other words, make a great song! 🙂 

NOTE: If you enjoyed that training, be sure to check out our J. Cole “Power Trip” article by clicking HERE.



COMMENT BELOW: 

What’s your FAVORITE J. Cole song of all time?

Drew Morisey, @drewmorisey on Instagram and Twitter

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