The J. Cole hype couldn’t be greater right now after the 4th major album release from J. Cole, For Your Eyez Only. Many are expecting it to be album of the year with only 2 songs released. They are also expecting it to be “another classic” [See Social Media] and it made us think. What is the best J. Cole album so far?
3 – Cole World: Sideline Story. Sideline Story is the hands down laziest album for me. When I heard Cole say he added songs from his mixtape to this album because he felt enough people didn’t hear them, I immediately lost my interest in buying it. Emcee’s shouldn’t do that. Sorry. I toss this one to the bottom of Cole releases because I heard a lot of it before the wave got real.
It’s interesting going back and listening to this album now. It’s difficult to replicate the hunger you hear in the very young J. Cole’s voice in nearly each song. This is often the case with many rappers when juxtaposing their early catalog over their more recent works. The effect this has is ultimately subjective, but for us it’s clear young Simba was not yet the king.
2 – 2014 Forest Hills Drive. The Platinum with no features album. The album that inspired a bunch of jaded, misguided and misspelled memes for the last 2 years. It’s not that this album is whack necessarily, it just doesn’t move me. The middle of this album made me dose off. I’m not a fan of the singing efforts. Tracks like “St. Tropez” and “Hello” come of as somewhat forced and, as a result, slightly in-genuine.
What’s more, tracks that were clearly intended to be in more of a pure hip hop vein, like “Fire Squad” turned out to be little more than filler. To be clear, Cole had hits on this project. “Wet Dreamz” and “Tale of 2 Citiez” are both catchy and have a well-rounded appeal. “January 28th” and “No Role Modelz” are anthems in their own right as well. To us, they were just too few and far between to justify ranking this album higher up. To the Cole Stans, we’re sorry, but 2014 a little boring. We credit cole for giving us a bunch of new music though.
1 – Born Sinner: This album was a hype beast dream. New Rappers, good features, Hit singles and was deemed a classic because everyone hated Yeezus and didn’t pay attention to The Gifted by Wale. This album is the best of the 3 to me because it’s the best representation of what Cole can do. Songs like “Land of the Snakes” serve as a verbal exhibition for Cole, with a concise, driven flow over an equally driven instrumental.
“Trouble” was a favorite off of the album, featuring a menacing instrumental with Cole’s cocky humor at play on top of it. Born Sinner made it clear that he can make hits if he wants. He can really rap. He has the potential to be a great producer. The subject matter isn’t that great or diverse, but I honestly feel the release of 2014 FHD builds the appreciation of Born Sinner. It’s number 1 for me, but not cause it is “so much better” than the other releases around it.
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