A new hip hop album by the renowned J. Cole, exciting stuff. J. Cole is a hip hop artist raised in North Carolina and has gained fame since his debut mixtape in 2007. Since then J. Cole has become a well-known artist for his unique style and unyielding approach to subject matters he feels are of vital importance within his community and similar communities. He has gone a long way to improve the situations of various people through charities and his music. This album is no different.
Straight of the bat this intro is weird and feels like being thrown a curve ball. The production is like hold or elevator music and J. Cole provides a distant backing about closing of his thoughts whilst a woman’s voice talks about babies and how they communicate. She also talks about how life brings pain and there are lots of ways to deal with said pain. In a way is seems like it is trying to highlight the issues this album will talk about, but is just a jarring way to do it.
After the frankly odd intro J. Cole comes in hard with a straight up fire track. The title track for this album is beautiful in both production and what he brings to it. The production to this track is very bassy with a quick snappy drum beat. It also has these electric piano like stabbing sounds which brings this beat together nicely.
The lyrics to this track are fire and having a hype track like this is unlike J. Cole but is a very nice inclusion to his repertoire of sounds. The lyrics outline how good J. Cole (or possibly an alter ego) is at selling drugs and how much money he has made from this work. This works well with both the title of the album, thought to stand for ‘Kidz on Drugs’ or ‘King Overdose’ and how the album was released on 4/20 a renowned day for drug use.
A superb track that I hope is just the tip of the iceberg that is this album.
This track is much more in line with what we expect from J. Cole. Its production value is a lot slower witch very quick bassy drums and snares. He talks about trying to finesse a girl through social media and also talks about the issues with romance in our current era. In my opinion the chorus is a bit out of place here as it is very slow but the rest of this track conveys a message clearly in the style we love from Cole.
The Cut Off
A classy more soulful track from J. Cole. It highlights a very real issue that people who achieve fame or wealth experience, and that is that you can’t truly know who your true friends are. The beat to this track is a slow boom bap drum loop accompanied by a piano rift and brass instruments. I like this track a lot and how it speaks about how some people are not good for you and will never change for the better, you just cut them off. It speaks volumes of J. Cole’s views on the realistic side of fame.
This track starts off all dreamy and weird and seems like it is in cohorts with the intro to this album, but behind this J. Cole is hiding yet another hype tune. This track holds a lot of energy and talks about people’s relationship with money. He speaks about how important money is to everyone “can’t take it when you die, but you can’t live without it” but how quickly it will corrupt you “big bills, big bills. I fell in love with big wheels and quick thrills”. People need it to get out of a bad situation but too much will cause very different issues in your life. This is the type of meaningful hip hop I expect from J. Cole.
My god this track is fire. A very good follow up to the track before ATM, it talks about similar issues but in a no humble brag kind of way. He discusses all the things that money can buy and people don’t care about much if you can show them you have money. Some people flock to money and success. Overall this track is superb and I love the samples at the start of this track. Possibly my favourite from this album.
This track is a much slower balled type song from J. Cole. He speaks from the position of someone who is in love with drugs and how much it changes a person. He personifies the drugs and makes it seem as if the drugs are a girl which allows him to discuss issues in relationships such as cheating and distrust. A nice addition to this album and is a nice half-way mark.
An amazing track speaking about a real issue within struggling communities. BRACKETS is a track about the lack of power people have over what happens to the money from their taxes. He speaks about how he is told that the money he pays should be invested into schools and communities but those communities are struggling as much as they ever have. He mentions that black communities learn about white ‘heroes’ and white history “democracy is too fuckin’ slow”. The only time J. Cole says that he sees his money come back to his community is in the form of weapons that kill the people he cares about.
He makes a very good point about how once our money leaves our bank accounts we never see how that’s being spent. He suggests we should be able to pick exactly where our money goes so that our taxes make a difference in a way that is visible to us.
Once an Addict (Interlude)
This song is a deep monologue on the relationship people close to J. Cole have with substances such as alcohol and drugs. This song doesn’t really have a beat and is just J. Cole talking about problems he feels passionate about. These problems are very prominent in all walks of life and have a direct correlation to mental health issues. I salute J. Cole for talking about these issues in such a personal manner.
This track again speaks about substance abuse and addiction in a similar yet different way than the track before. Instead of J. Cole talking about issues he has seen with his mother and friends, he talks about these issues form a first person perspective and how affects him and his community. He actually mentions the correlation between drugs and anxiety. A very important track that actually discusses possible solutions to these issues as well.
Window Pain (Outro)
A powerful track about more serious issues. He discusses what he wants from life and how difficult it is to achieve a lot of these things. He talks about people he tries to help won’t accept the hand of J. Cole and it hurts him.
He also discusses gun violence in a very personal and brutal way. He talks about this in the form of a story of a girl he knew where she tells him that her brother was shot whilst she was with him. It is harrowing yet a very real thing that thousands of people are affected by daily. A great and important inclusion to this album.
1985 (Intro to “The Fall Off”)
A superb conclusion to this album, 1985 talks about J. Cole’s opinion on hip hop in 2018. The track discusses issues with mainstream artists being successful for a matter of moments before they fall off the map due to being unable to keep up with trends. He wishes them all success as artists but warns them of the realisation they will have to face, and that is it is going to be very short lived. J. Cole believes, as I do, that hip hop music is awash with trend hopping artists with very little skill that are doing nothing to better the lives of those around them. They praise money, drugs and expensive items such as cars and jewelry. J. Cole wants something different, he wants to help those who are struggling and I think others should follow his example.
As a whole this album is near perfect, there are a couple of moments such as the intro that are unnecessary and jarring but they do not in any way take away from how superb this album is. It is an album full of cool beats and interesting and important subjects from a man who has seemingly seen them all. This is an album that I recommend to all lovers of hip hop, and I guarantee that your mind will be more open because of it.