Here, Cole raps about rappers who having reached the top of the game, he now considers to have fallen from grace. It has been speculated that part of this song is directed at Kanye West. He tell us he a genius but it's clearer lately
It's been hard for him to look into the mirror lately
The timing of the dropping of the song is unfortunate, arriving shortly after Kanye West's hospitalization for mental health issues
. However, Cole never actually uses West's name and it could be he's using Yeezy's persona to voice a more general opinion about recent music that big artists have dropped.
Elsewhere, Cole seems to be calling out Drake who has been accused of plundering other rapper's styles and using ghostwriters
for his raps.Maybe it's my fault for idolizing niggas
Based off the words they be rappin'
But come to find out, these niggas don't even write they s--t
Hear some new style bubblin' up, then they bite the s--t
Damn, that's what I get for lyin' to myself
Cole is questioning himself for looking up to such rappers when they are just spitting some words that they didn't write over somebody else's beat.
Cole even appears to fire a shot at his pal Wale,
I got a homie he a rapper and he want to win bad
He want the fame the acclaim the respect that's been had by all of the legend
So every time I see him he keeps stressing
Talkin' about niggas don't f--- with him, s--- is depressin'.
Wale has tweeted in the past about how he feels misunderstood and slighted by some of his peers.
Cole calls the rappers that he is giving knowledge about "false prophets" on the hook. The allusion is to Matthew 7 v 15 where Jesus warns his followers:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Cole uses this analogy to describe some of the rappers, which he once idolized, as being like the false prophets that crave adoration.
The beat for "False Prophets" was composed by Freddie Joachim. His instrumental titled "Waves," was previously used by Joey Bada$$. for his 2012 song also called "Waves." Bada$$ tweeted that Cole visited him months before this song was dropped:
"Nah but nothing but love for my big brother @JColeNC. He played the song for me & asked for my blessing on the beat months ago. Real one #4."
Both this song and "Everybody Dies" were released as singles shortly before the release of 4 Your Eyez Only, but weren't included on the album. Many fans were disappointed that the hard-hitting tracks had been excluded. J. Cole's manager, Ibrahim "Ib" Hamad explained why they were left off the track listing during an interview with Billboard magazine:
"The album was initially like 13, 14 songs and then just at the last second, we kind of were like, 'Look, if we're trying to tell a story, let's just make it as clear as possible and cut it down to that.' So when we cut out 'False Prophets' and 'Everybody Dies,' it really hurt," Hamad said. "[…] We really wanted [the songs] on the album and it was like we still wanted people to hear it but we didn't want to put the music out because we knew it wasn't a real representation of the album."
Speaking during a New York Times profile, Cole explained his mindset when he recorded this tune. "Rappers rap about other rappers all the time - subliminal insult, direct attack - but rarely from a place of love. 'That speaks to the state of us as a people,' he said. 'For so long my mind state was, I have to show how much better than the next man I am through these bars. Who's the best? Let me prove it. And it's just like, damn, I'm really feeding into a cycle of keeping black people down, I'm really feeding into that.'"
Speaking with Power 105's Angie Martinez in May 2018, Cole addressed the perceived disses aimed at Kanye West on this track.
"That song wasn't about him," he said. "There's one verse that applies to him, for sure, but if you listen to it, it's about what this s--t is exposing. We're worshiping celebrities. At one time I put this dude on a major pedestal… It's when it's at an unhealthy level that I fear. For the majority of us, our fascination for celebrities and what they do for us is unhealthy."