Cole World: Review

Cole World: Review

Autumn Mckinzie, Contributing Writer

It seems as if J. Cole has been creeping onto the mainstage since his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story in 2011. Ever since then, the rapper has had a rapidly increasing fan-base, with 37 songs reaching the Billboard 100 on almost every album.

A tweet sent out from J. Cole’s Twitter account on April 16 promised a new album titled KOD to drop on April 20 and was met with hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets. Shortly thereafter, the rapper posted a picture of the album cover, depicting a crowned and robed J. Cole covering little children. The album bears the disclaimer “This album is in no way intended to glorify addiction.”

While there is no real song one can point to and say for sure that it’s going to be on the radio all summer long, the album is a cautionary tale hidden in catchy beats, masterfully told by a skillful lyricist. Over the 11 tracks are songs that have a mixture of unsettling, somewhat jazzy sounds that Cole somehow makes work really well. It’s on the other side of the spectrum of where hip-hop currently is. Intro only lasts one minute and 47 seconds. It’s overlaid with a woman’s melodic voice, creating a dissonance that’s unsettling. The second track of the album, KOD starts off with a bass and beat that makes it easy to bop along with. Cole uses the first verse to flex his newfound success, while mocking critics that say he should feature artists on his work. He does feature one artist, ‘kiLL edward’ on two songs, which, turns out, is J. Cole by a different name.

The only word I can use to describe Photograph is chill. The beat is repetitive and relaxing. The song talks about falling in love with a photograph from an app like Instagram. In this person’s mind, the user is perfect, funny, attractive, and unattainable.

“Wonder if you follow back. I hope to see you one day,” Cole says.

Brackets is the eighth song on the album, opening with an audio clip of a man preaching to others how much money he’s made. The song is another soft-beat jam, but the lyrics pack a punch. Cole raps about climbing the tax bracket and paying every penny due, but mentions that the underprivileged youth these taxes are supposed to benefit aren’t seeing anything. The track says that kids in these neighborhoods are barely graduating because these tax dollars are funding faculty that don’t look like the students, in addition to white-washing history.

The ninth song, Once an Addict Interlude, details the tumultuous relationship J. Cole shares with his mother. The song acts as a window to the rapper’s childhood, letting fans see an intimate part of him. These personal songs are where J. Cole truly shines, and where listeners can fully appreciate his talent as an artist. Emotional and moving, this song will not find its success on the charts, but rather in how it resonates with individuals.

It takes more than one listen to fully appreciate the album, but  KOD is very easy to listen to. The juxtaposition of the intimate lyrics against often harsh or sporadic beats is becoming more and more common in music of various genres and can be hard to execute, but Cole seems to pull it off seamlessly.