January 28th

Album: 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)

Songfacts®:

  • Jermaine 'J' Cole was born on January 28, 1985 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. As well as titling this track after his birthday, Cole also named the album after his childhood home.
  • Cole is signed to Jay Z's Roc Nation and the North Carolina rapper considers his label boss to be his mentor. Hova previously released "December 4," named after his own birthday, on The Black Album. Interestingly both cuts are the second track on their respective records.
  • Cole reminisces on the laid-back cut about some late friends as well as addressing his success and music industry politics. He ends the track by comparing himself to "the great Rakim" who was also born on January 28th - 17 years before the North Carolina rapper. He explains that the only rap gods were born on the titular date.
  • The song contains a sample of "Sky Restaurant," written by Japanese singer Yumi Matsutoya and composer Kunihiko Murai, which was performed by Japanese chorus group Hi-Fi Set. J. Cole's people struggled to get in touch with the writers and the sample was only cleared at 2 a.m., just seven hours before the album's deadline. Cole references the difficulties clearing the sample on the outro to "Note to Self," when he raps:

    As we speak the last sample just cleared
    Thank you to whoever in Japan, just cleared that s--t

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