During a stop in Anaheim on his 4 Your Eyez Only Tour, J. Cole revealed the beat for “Neighbors” is actually just the beat for “Forbidden Fruit” reversed. “Forbidden Fruit” was a co-production with Ron Gilmore.
At the end of his performance of “Forbidden Fruit” from his 2013 album Born Sinner, J. Cole told the crowd to pay close attention. “Here’s what you didn’t know. Cali, just listen.…,” he says in a video that captured the magic
“Forbidden Fruit” featuring Kendrick Lamar samples “Mystic Brew” by funk instrumentalist Ronnie Foster and more than three years later, “Neighbors” produced by J. Cole is just the “Forbidden Fruit” beat in reverse.
Playing songs in reverse to reveal a message is known as backmasking, you won’t get an exact replication of each song if you were to listen to them in reverse (by doing it yourself, or by Googling it) because the “Neighbors” beat’s tempo was changed, some snares were removed and 808s were beefed up.
J. Cole’s 2013’s “Forbidden Fruit”:
J. Cole’s 2016’s “Neighbors”: