Dreamville Records is done watching the throne. With an undeniable momentum, J. Cole’s clan is staking its claim as hip-hop’s No. 1 collective. Sleep at your own peril.
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of XXL magazine, on stands now.
Signed to Dreamville: 2019
XXL: How did you first meet J. Cole?
Omen: I’ve known Cole since he was probably about 15. We were on this fan site for Canibus. We were like stans of this dude. But on the site was a bunch of other rappers. They’d share songs, battle each other. We were both on there, just rap nerds loving the culture, battling. Sometimes just text battles. We became friends through that site. We shared music [and] beats with each other. Eventually, he was going to St. John’s [University]. I had family in New York, [so] we met in real life, like, okay, you’re not a weirdo, I’m not a weirdo. We cool. We just kept doing music together and here we are.
Aside from J. Cole, you’re the artist who’s been affiliated with Dreamville for the longest. What’s your role in the squad?
It’s not really set up like that. That’s the beauty of Dreamville. It’s a real creative license, whatever you want to do. I made a house song the other day—totally different from anything I ever done and it was accepted. If I had to pick a role, I’ma pick the poet. I consciously put a more poetic spin on my writing. I had poetry classes. I use those devices when I’m writing.
Did you connect with anyone outside of Dreamville during the Revenge of the Dreamers III recording sessions?
I was in one session making something with Buddy from L.A., who I had never met. I rode with him on the Sprinter on the way to the studio. We was chopping it up and we just did a song together. I love the song, [but] at the same time, Bas was making something with Smino and Saba in another studio and I missed out. That’s happening constantly. All kind of people showing up. But it’s inspiring. You get to see how different people work, how different people write, their process. It’s sharpening everybody’s skill level.
What do you have planned for 2019?
I’m finally putting out my album. That’s been a long time coming. I put my last album out in 2015. I had to get business things straight, some sample clearance issues I was dealing with. This is perfect timing for me. It’s all working beautifully. It feels genuine and natural.
See All Photos From Dreamville’s Spring 2019 XXL Magazine Cover Story