"I guess the neighbors think I'm sellin' dope, sellin' dope/ Okay, the neighbors think I'm sellin' dope, sellin' dope" J. Cole raps in the intro to his 4 Your Eyez Only cut 'Neighbors.'
Cole is known for using his real life experiences in his bars, and 'Neighbors is no exception.
In an interview with Complex, Cole's co-producer Elite broke down the story behind the album's seventh track.
The 'Neighbors' story is crazy. Basically Cole rented out a house in North Carolina. It’s not for him; it’s like a safe haven/creative workspace for all the Dreamville artists and producers. We call it the Sheltuh, and a lot of the album was recorded there.. It’s basically a studio in a basement, in the woods. It’s also in the suburbs of a pretty wealthy neighborhood in North Carolina. So you have, predominately, African-Americans coming in and out of this house. Ubers coming, and every once in awhile you’ll see a group of us outside on the porch smoking weed. So the neighbors started getting real paranoid. Apparently what happened was, we were all in Austin, Texas, for SXSW; thankfully no one was in the house when this went down. One of the neighbors told the police we were growing weed or selling drugs out of this house. And there was a huge investigation, like a million-dollar investigation. They flew helicopters over, sent an entire SWAT team armed with weapons, broke down the door and searched the whole house. Thankfully nobody was in the house. Our engineer Juro “Mez” Davis had just stepped out for lunch and he came back and saw the SWAT team busting down the door. They go downstairs and all they see is a studio, and obviously they felt stupid. It’s just crazy ironic because out of anybody, they picked the wrong person. J. Cole is the last person to do anything like that. He’s out here doing extremely positive things for the community and for young artists. Because of obvious racism from the neighbors, the police were called and a raid took place.While 'Neighbors' is based on a true story, Elite reveals that the most of the rest of the album is from a non-Cole perspective -- a break from Cole's introspective story telling on 2014 Forest Hills Drive.
There are moments where it parallels him and he speaks from his own perspective. 'Neighbors' is a step outside for a second, but it’s still a commentary on the overall theme. But the album is largely from a perspective that is not J. Cole.