RATING: 4 / 5
Rapper J. Cole
dropped his highly-anticipated record, 4 Your Eyez Only
last Friday and although it got mixed reactions
, J. Cole proved himself to not just be a great rapper, but a masterful storyteller. He takes us into his world of stepping out of the spotlight and raising a child. "Ville Mentality" is one of the jazzier tracks, with smooth horns and strings. The main lyric, "How can I survive with this mentality?"
represents an internal struggle, shedding a hint of melancholy and setting the tone for the rest of the record. Both parts of "She's Mine" are extremely emotional cuts - J. Cole strips back all of the fame, most of the music (literally), puts his career aside, and fully focuses on talking to his loved one as if he didn't know the microphone was on. At some points it sounds like he's simply talking, rather than rapping. "Exposing you to all my demons and the reasons I'm this way / I'd like to paint a picture but it'd take more than a day / It would take more than some years then to get all over my fears / Preventing me from letting you see all of me perfectly clear,"
he says gracefully, calmly. A baby cries in the background when in need of a diaper change.
"The only real change come from inside,"
he sings on the hook in "Change." This track sounds a little more old school, and this time he's not focusing on his internal self but addresses the alarmingly high amount of racial injustices the world is experiencing today. Towards the later half of the song, he cries, "I made it home, I woke up and turned on the morning news / Overcame with a feeling I can't explain / Cause that was my n**** James that was slain / he was 22,"
and then some actual audible crying is heard in the distance, and at this point the listener has chills and wonders if they'll ever recover from this sad moment in the song. He then pays tribute to his friend, James McMillan Jr, after his early death.
"Neighbors" has a dark tone as well and even some subtle Kendrick Lamar (circa good kid, m.A.A.d city
) vibes, both flow and beat-wise. As the album winds down, J. Cole begins to end on a slightly more positive note with the fun "Foldin Clothes"
. "I wanna fold clothes for you / I wanna make you feel good / Baby I wanna do the right thing / Feels so much better than the wrong thing,"
The day that this album dropped, a friend texted me and asked "why would J. Cole use the same sample as Bryson Tiller's 'Exchange' in 'Deja Vu,' so close to the release of Tiller's?" Producers on Twitter were freaking out and listeners were getting suspicious. But I thought the answer was clear: J. Cole was making a record for himself. You can tell that, after listening to all of the other songs, he wasn't trying to write something that was going to up his career...And he wasn't trying to start beef. He simply wasn't concerned with what other people were doing. If he wrote a good song, he wasn't going to second guess it because of Tiller or anyone else in general. He's doing it for all of the right reasons - for the sake of creation. With the refreshing 4 Your Eyez Only
, J. Cole completely strips rap of its notorious egotistical attitude and is understood as a real, live, breathing human being.