Cottonwood 2

Cottonwood 2

Memphis rapper NLE Choppa’s first official release was the 2019 EP Cottonwood, which featured his breakout single, “Shotta Flow.” But as his career advanced, including his 2020 debut studio album, Top Shotta (released when he was just 17), something didn’t sit right with him about that first impression. “It wasn’t an album; it was just something short and sweet I wanted to provide for my fans,” he tells Apple Music’s Nadeska. “But even in the midst of that, I felt I didn’t put my best foot forward with picking the best music or putting videos behind it or even marketing-wise. It’s still a gold project. It still did numbers. But I was like, ‘OK, imagine if I was to put together a project where I pushed myself to exhaustion and made sure I did everything I could do on the promo side, the marketing side, going in the studio at 9 pm and not leaving until 7 am the next day.’ I know I’m about to have another breakout year times 10.” The full-length 22-track sequel, Cottonwood 2, is the result, a too-rare example of a young star reacting to sudden success with self-control and wisdom beyond his 20 years. “When you young and you blowing up, you get everything you want. It was hard to balance it and just be disciplined and be humble with it,” he says. “I wasn’t treating my body right. I wasn’t sticking firm on prayer like I was before. I know I won’t fail because I know how it feel to be at your lows. I’m like, ‘Yo, when I’m back in my highest, I’ma stay there. I’m never going to go back.’” The discipline extended to the way he worked in the studio—preparing more and freestyling less. “I was freestyling because, I’m going to be honest, I was high,” he says. “When I used to smoke weed, I used to have an anxiety against time. So, I never sat down to perfect anything. And I wasn’t making my best music. I was still dropping hits though. But now I got a sober mind, so I’m in tune with everything. And I know, if I spend three hours on perfecting this song, rather than have to redo a take, redo this take, I’m willing because I know that’s what’s going to make the best music. I’d rather spend a day with writing a song and going into the studio and having the flow already down pat where I can do at least four songs a night. And they can all be perfect because I’ve already written for it before I came in the studio.” Read on for NLE Choppa's thoughts on a few tracks from Cottonwood 2, including the collaboration with his hero Lil Wayne. “DO IT AGAIN” “It was so fresh, it was so new. I never heard a beat like that—the Rose Royce sample on the Jersey club beat. So once I heard that, I was like, ‘OK, I feel good about this.’ And ever since then, it’s just been a lot more things that’s just been opening up to me as far as just it’s not familiar. It’s just new and it’s fresh. So, ‘DO IT AGAIN’ was one of those first records when I was like, ‘OK, I’m back where I need to be. I’m on point. I’m on track.’” “AIN’T GONNA ANSWER” “It was a dream come true. I remember being at home, watching Wayne on TV, watching him on YouTube, always just been obsessed with how much of him he was. He wasn’t no one else but himself. I remember I was in Miami, recording, and I heard the ‘Back That Azz Up’ sample by Juvie. I started writing to it. I remember recording the verse and the hook, and I looked around the room and Ben Billions, who produced it, he was like, ‘Yo, leave the second verse open. We gonna try to get Wayne on it.’ I said, ‘That’s out of reach, man.’ So, I left the second verse open, went home, and I was just obsessed with the song. A month or two later, I was in Whole Foods, buying fruit, man—I was on a fruit fast. I had straight fruit, and I was finna check out. Soon as I was finna put my card in, Aaron Bay-Schuck, CEO of Warner Records, he called me. And he like, ‘Yo, I got this surprise for you: Wayne just did that verse, and he gave you the best verse I heard from him in a minute.’ I get to shouting. I’m at Whole Foods, everybody looking at me crazy. I’m going to be honest, Whole Foods just a dominant white store, so everybody looking at me like, ‘What’s going on?’” “IN THE UK” “When I first went to record in the UK, I was only there for two days, but I got to ride around, and I got to be around the city. I was able to see the trench side of it over the hood side because my family’s from there. It’s crazy how so much we are all alike—everywhere we go it’s a hood. Everywhere we go, it’s a struggle, and everywhere we go it’s a suburb. It’s so much of the same; it’s just a different culture. So, for me to be able to go there, it just brought a different appreciation. The same way we got Apple Music here, they got a Apple Music there. It’s like the exact same, but it just feels different slightly.” “COLD GAME” “It’s the outro. It’s me and Rick Ross. Beautiful record and it’s just the perfect song to ride off to the sunset too.”

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