Technology with attitude

Is J. Cole’s “Hollywood Cole” the Most Misunderstood Lyric in Hip-Hop?


I’d like to preface this piece of lyrical injustice by saying I’m not here to libel any of the artists that will be mentioned. I just feel it’s my role to educate those who may not be unfamiliar with the origin of a particular sound bite that has reemerged as a nugget of pop culture.

Emcee J. Cole made waves in 2009 with a breakout mixtape, The Warm-Up, and an appearance on Jay-Z’s prophetically titled track “A Star is Born” off The Blueprint 3. As a signee to Jay’s Roc Nation and part of hip-hop’s newest freshman class, J. Cole couldn’t miss. When his first official single “Who Dat?” – a bombastic, clap-ridden, horn-filled banger co-produced by Cole himself – dropped in April 2010 to Internet acclaim, things looked even better.

But wait. What was that at the 2:27 mark?

[audio:|titles=J. Cole “Who Dat?”]

Is that Cole sampling Andree 3000 off OutKast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious?” I played out the song before going back to check. It’s unmistakably Three Stacks. But I was confused. I had always heard Andre 3000 say “Hollywood Court” through his southern draw. Is this an oversight on J. Cole’s part? Could this be the young gun’s first miscue?

I reached into the iTunes folder to pull up Aquemini. Playing the spoken word classic for the umpteenth time, it still sounds like “Hollywood Court.”

[audio:|titles=Andre 3000 “Hollywood Court”]

Continuing sleuthing, I did my best Wikipedia Brown. Again, “Hollywood Court” was verified by the world’s utmost experts, the Interwebs. Needing more verification I did a simple Google search for “hollywood court atlanta.” The first hit, a Google map of a location west of Midtown Atlanta and across from Magnolia Cemetery.

Just several scrolls down the results list I found more goodies about Hollywood Court. A youtube video gives a short slideshow of the housing as well as dates the complex as being built in 1969 and schedule for demolition in 2009. And like everything else, a facebook page dedicated to the Zone 1 housing units has 501 “likes” as well as a somewhat active wall and discussion boards, not to mention photos of previous tenets and the demolition of the housing.


That solidified it for me. Facebook, youtube, Google and various lyric sites have proven that in fact Andre 3000 did mean Hollywood Court.

While I was smitten with myself for 3 minutes of investigation I was also a bit downtrodden. As one of my top up-and-coming emcees and fellow North Carolina native, I felt betrayed that J. Cole could have – in my opinion – so carelessly sampled a heralded emcee like Andre 3000. Are there no copy desks in hip-hop to fact check song content?

My wounded heart soon healed. I respect J. Cole more than most emcees in hip-hop. He, much like Andre 3000, has already distinguished himself to be more than just a rapper. As a composer and lyricist he definitely deserves to be considered an artist. So  I in turn chalked up the cole/court episode as artistic license on J. Cole’s part. He took something and made it his own. He deserves no disrespect for that.

However, I did not feel the same when a track featuring Lil’ Wayne and Drake dropped in August. The song in question, “Right Above It,” is a featured single on Wayne’s I Am Not a Human Being EP and is currently receiving airplay on radio across the country. Guess how Drake opens the first verse?

[audio:|titles=Drake “Hollywood Cole”]

Really? This is a blatant “Hollywood Cole” and incorrect reference. I’ll admit, when I heard “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” for the first couple times I thought Andre 3000 was saying Cole, as in, a man has just pummeled another and proclaims himself “Hollywood Cole.” Of course the first time I listened to “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” I was also 12, and upon years of “researching” Three Stacks’ inflection and delivery I feel confident that he is in fact saying “court” among the other evidence I have collected and displayed. So what’s Drake’s deal?

I have several theories.

One: Drake has misheard the lyrics the entire time and is simply trying to pay homage to the original and does it incorrectly. Again, if you’re a top musician and know this song will reach the masses, there is no excuse for such oversight. This is when entourages are supposed to step in and stop being “yes” men. Tell dude he effed up. I would hope they would thank you.

Two: Drake is actually shouting out his peer J. Cole. Cole’s song dropped in April and made its rounds in the hip-hop world as well as gained some airplay on urban radio around the country. After this Andre 3000 sample gained new life from “Who Dat?” Drake could easily have had the reference fresh on his mind for lyrics or just wanted to aurally give props to Cole. One hangup in this theory though. Wayne went to jail in March, “Right Above It” was released in August. Drake would not have been able to have heard Cole’s track before recording his verse as Wayne was already in the click when “Who Dat?” was released. Well, I think it’s safe to say we can put that hangup to rest, as Wayne is notorious for his workload. The man recorded enough verses and videos that for his entire stay in prison there would still be new Wayne material being released. It is very possible that Wayne’s verse had long been stashed and Drake recorded after hearing “Who Dat?”

Third: Drake is referencing OutKast but not saying either cole or court, but rather “cold.” I personally do not believe this theory, but lyric sites would make you think this. I honestly thought that this was a very clear case of “Cole” when I first heard the song and never thought of this “cold” take on things. That is until the October 2010 issue of XXL magazine featured “Right Above It” and “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” in its “Swagger Jacker” feature. XXL offered up Andre 3000’s line as the “Lender” while Drake’s was the “Borrower.” The magazine cited Drake’s verse as this: “Who else trying to **** with Hollywood Cole/I’m with Marley G Grover flying Hollygrove chicks to my Hollywood shows.” Interesting, I thought. Never thought of it being “cold” before. Eyes scan over to the Andre 3ooo citation: “Two ****** done start bustin’, and one ***** done took his shirt off, talkin’ ’bout, ‘Now who else wanna **** with Hollywood Cold?” WHAT!? Now this is a respectable, nationwide magazine complicating this whole situation. Never in my “research” did I ever come across any mention of the original lyric to “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” containing “cold.” I will go ahead and say XXL magazine is entirely wrong in its interpretation. Again, where are hip-hop’s copy editors?

I believe that the second Drake theory is the correct one. But I may very well be wrong. Perhaps Andre 3000 never meant to shout out city housing projects in the first place. Maybe Cole got his sample right. I really don’t know.

But I do know this. In terms of history’s misheard lyrics, this example will forever be at the top of my list. Move over Jimi Hendrix and Creedence Clearwater Revival, there’s a new lyric to argue over. Unless all three artists would like to come through with their sides of the stories.