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[Review] J. Cole “4 Your Eyez Only”

4 your eyez only

4 Your Eyez Only released at midnight on December 9th and soon after I found myself streaming the 10-track project with mixed expectations. One thing became very clear almost immediately: Mixtape Cole came out to play. 4 Your Eyez Only finds itself on uncommon ground with respect to his previous projects. It’s less focused on trying to be an album. Rather, it just is one without trying. It’s the difference between someone attempting to be funny versus a naturally funny person. The inter-song transitions stood out as a major improvement for Cole as well. They give 4YEO an incredibly cohesive vibe, as opposed to feeling forced in any way.

I’m guessing someone finally told J. Cole that he should put his dopest flows on an album this time around, instead of just releasing them sporadically as singles or features (or radio show ‘freestyles’). On “Immortal” he comes out swinging. The flow is hungry, concise, and out to really impress something upon the listener: Cole’s not playing any games. The song transitions effortlessly into “DeJa Vu”, where many of the same qualities make themselves known. “DeJa Vu” is a love song cleverly disguised as something a bit less soft. This is largely due to the sleek and impactful production.

A large part of the appeal of this album is that it doesn’t feel as confined as previous projects. Again, it’s not trying to be anything, it just is what it is. Tracks like “Ville Mentality” boast a more jazzy feel, with an interestingly deliberate balance of conscientious and more “ignant” subject matter. He gripes with being a famous rapper in the age of information, which often leaves him feeling somewhat exposed and vulnerable. In spite of this, he expresses his unwillingness to give up the flashy components (“Give up my chain? Never”), while then singing, “how long can I live with this mentality?”. The duality expressed here is echoed at various points later in the album.

J Cole album [Review] J. Cole 4 Your Eyez Only

One of my favorite tracks on the album, “Neighbors”, further expound on the implications of living a life such as J. Cole’s. The production is immediately gripping, with a meaningful bass drop right off the bat and Cole rapping “Ok, the neighbors think I’m selling dope” on the chorus. Whereas previous tracks melded conscientiousness with something more shallow, stylistically this one mostly sticks with the former. This song can be enjoyed on many different levels. If you want to break down what he’s saying, the content is ripe for analysis. If you’re just looking for a crisp flow on a dope instrumental, “Neighbors” can accommodate that as well.

4 Your Eyez Only is not a flawless album, but it’s a step in the right direction. My main gripe with the project is its short 45-minute run time. That being said, I prefer a concise project over a convoluted and oversaturated one. It’s as if he’s trimmed the fat in a sense. I dislike few things more than filler tracks on an album or mixtape, so I appreciate the lack of those. My prediction is that 4YEO will have a long life, getting spins from me for many moons. I’m pleased with the feel and general direction Young Simba takes with this project, and it sounds like he’s becoming less restricted in his creative output. Until his next project we can’t confirm that any of these changes are here to stay. That being said, we appreciate what he’s done with 4YEO.

 

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