J. Cole says he once encouraged Dr. Dre to sign Kendrick Lamar

Dre would eventually sign Lamar to Aftermath in 2012

J. Cole has confirmed his involvement in the 2012 signing of Kendrick Lamar to Aftermath Records, saying in a new interview that he once hyped Lamar up to the label’s founder and CEO, Dr. Dre.

The topic came in a new interview with Nardwuar, who stunned Cole with the deep-diving question, “J. Cole, did you tell Dr. Dre about Kendrick?” After a 15-second pause – during which Cole looked back and forth between Nardwuar and the camera – he responded: “Who told you that? Who gave you that piece of information?”

But after his initial shock, Cole admitted: “The answer is yes, I did. I’m not gonna say I was the first to tell him… When I brought him up to Dre, I was like, ‘Yo, you know what you gotta do.” 


Cole noted that he first clued Dre onto Lamar when the former was busy working on his ‘Detox’ album (which spent over a decade in production before ultimately being scrapped). Though Cole was quick to point out that it’s unlikely he was the one that directly convinced Dre to sign Lamar, he affirmed that he did tell the legendary ‘2001’ rapper: “You gotta sign this kid from Compton!”

“Shoutout to Dr. Dre,” Cole continued. “He made the right decision.”

Take a look at the full interview below (Nardwuar asks about Lamar at the 43:40 mark):

Lamar was eventually signed to Aftermath in 2012, and released three albums on the label – ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City’ in 2012, ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ in 2015 and ‘DAMN.’ in 2017 – in tandem with Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) and Interscope.

Back in August, Lamar confirmed that his forthcoming fifth album would be his last with TDE – a move that TDE CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith expressed his support for.


Lamar has teased his next album all throughout 2021, with drop-fed updates to his public presence (such as when new song titles were registered on ASCAP, when his Spotify image was changed, and when he reportedly signed on a new business manager) fuelling repeated speculation that he could announce the record any moment. 

Last month, the rapper made his hotly awaited return to the stage, performing his first set in over two years at this year’s Day N Vegas festival. Among the career-spanning setlist were a number of choice cuts from his breakthrough debut LP, ‘Section.80’, including the live debut of ‘Chapter Ten’. 

Meanwhile, Lamar recently featured on Terrace Martin’s new track ‘Drones’ alongside Ty Dolla $ign, James Fauntleroy and Snoop Dogg.