Punchin' the Clock

Album: The Off-Season (2021)
Charted: 20
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Songfacts®:

  • This is a track from J. Cole's sixth album The Off-Season. The title refers to the dedication it takes for NBA players to be superstars, even training hard in the summer. Throughout the record there are basketball references and concepts as Cole compares the many hours he works at perfecting his rap skills to the hard grind NBA stars put in 365 days a year.
  • Sage words from Damian Lillard are sprinkled throughout this track, starting with a soundbite from the Portland Trail Blazers star after he racked up 61 points in a win against the Dallas Mavericks.

    I told you, when I first came here, I said, 'I ain't come here to waste my time

    Lillard concludes the song by talking about sharpening his skills during the off-season.

    In the summer, I think when you truly prepare yourself, and with training and conditioning, and things like that
  • Speaking in his Applying Pressure: The Off-Season Documentary, Cole explained why he named his 2009 mixtape The Warm Up after realizing he needed to work harder to make it in the rap game. "I'm 21 years old and I'm like, 'Do you really want to look back 20 years later and know the reason you didn't make it in music is because you're not putting in the work?' And that's where the warm-up came from," he said. "Everyday I woke up, wrote verses, made beats and so, The Off-Season is the same concept. One more time before I leave, before I'm fulfilled in this game, let me try to reach a new height from a skill level standpoint."
  • In between the two Lilllard clips, Cole raps a single verse, which starts with a reference to his hard grind.

    Back on top, punchin' the clock, clutchin' sanity

    The rest of the verse finds him recounting his tough experiences growing up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he was surrounded by gun violence.
  • Production is courtesy of:

    Everett, Washington producer Mario Luciano. His other credits include H.E.R's 2019 single "Slide."

    Tae Beast of Top Dawg Entertainment in-house production team Digi+Phonics. He is best known for his Kendrick Lamar productions, which include "Alright" and "Hood Politics."
  • Luciano came up with the original sample. He told Genius he created both this one and the one for "Slide" in the same two months in 2018.

    He started creating this sample on his Rhodes electric piano, added the horns over the top and processed it. Then his friend's mom came over and did some vocal ad-libs.

    Luciano sent Tae Beast a folder of his samples, he made some beats to it, and nothing happened until Tae got wind that Cole was working on an album. He sent him the "Punchin The Clock" instrumentation and three or four other beats; this was the one Cole picked.

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