Jermaine Cole, better known by his nickname J Cole, has been one of the most popular hip hop artists of our decade. It seems as if every time he releases an album, people pay very close attention to it. This is mostly due to the fact that he relates to so many people in our society, and he raps about society's problems.
After his first three critically acclaimed studio projects, "Cole World: The Sideline Story" (2011), "Born Sinner" (2013), and "2014 Forest Hills Drive" (2014), Cole has just released his much anticipated fourth album, "4 Your Eyez Only" last Friday.
Although J Cole has his die hard fans, I feel like people thought that he wasn't going to get any better than "2014 Forest Hills Drive." Songs like "No Role Modelz," A Tale of 2 Citiez," and Love Yourz," were hits that were depressing but realistic. Cole uses hard trap beats to talk about loving your life, and following your dreams even if no one believes in you.
Here in his fourth project, we see a lot of the same hard trap beats that we saw in his 2014 album. We also see the same bleak perspective on life like his third album. We see him also use different instruments in his production which was kind of different from his previous styles of work. It almost felt like I was listening to Kanye's "Late Registration" from 2005.
Even in his trap songs, you could still here an almost flute-like noise which was a nice addition, especially in the song "Immortal." He continues to discuss subjects such as, growing up as a black man and how that affects your perspective on life.
He also becomes an activist on this album when it comes to police brutality, and says that a gun will never kill a soul. We see a couple of singles mixed into this otherwise depressing project where J Cole discusses how important affection is to one another. Songs like "She's Mine Pt. 1 and 2" are an exceptional addition to the theme.
With only ten songs on the album, Cole does a nice job in creating a clear and cohesive message. While I think that he plays it safe at some points, it's still undeniable that he is one of the best out there. The production is definitely different from his previous works, and it feels like something that the "The Life of Pablo" should have been.
The only critique that I would give about J Cole is, he needs to break out of his shell a little bit. It seems like he has perfected the art of rap activism, but I want to see something totally different than any other projects that he has created. As much as I love this album, there is some repetition when it comes to the lyrics.
Knowing him, I'm sure that we will see something totally different than what Cole has done. But for now, it was pleasant seeing Cole back in the booth and creating music. While not perfect, "4 Your Eyez Only" is a nice refresher for why J Cole is still an influential musician.