Posts tagged J. Cole
The Most Anticipated Projects of 2019
(Prince Williams/WireImage)

(Prince Williams/WireImage)

A new year brings a clean slate, and with that comes fresh new music. 2018 brought a doozy of releases; so much it was being debated that there was TOO MUCH new music on the streets. Still, fans are anticipating a bevy of new releases in 2019. Here’s the artists we’re anticipating to drop new projects to end the decade.

Schoolboy Q

It never surprises me that Top Dawg sets the tone each year, and this time around it’s Groovy Q’s turn to drop. Last we heard from him was back in 2016 with his sophomore album Blankface LP. He’s killed some features here and there, and Q was reported to be close to finishing his third major studio album before he pushed it back due to the sudden, unexpected death of his good friend Mac Miller.

Signs on Q’s Instagram point to him being ready to release some new heat, so we’re excited to hear what he has in store for us this time around.

Isaiah Rashad

Isaiah Rashad has been real quiet since the release of his sophomore album The Sun’s Tirade. Last August Top Dawg hinted at a few more albums on the way, leading to speculation a new project from Rashad was on the horizon. While we already know how Kendrick, Jay Rock, & SZA can roll, I’m real interested to see which direction is Zay is headed.

Dreamville - Revenge of the Dreamers 3

Following the Revenge of the Dreamers 3 sessions so far has been one of my favorite moments in the early stages of the year Watching the sessions from the outside-in via social media feels like an exclusive invite-only club with other artists, musicians and media members. Seeing the sessions unfold has been organically amazing to witness.

J. Cole - The Fall Off 

Cole teased The Fall Off during his KOD run. We haven’t heard much about its status lately, but Cole has appeared to be re-inspired, working in the studio more often and exploring different producers. It’s cool to see Cole expand in that way, and I’m anxious to see if it will play a part in creating his next album.

Future presents: The WZRD

2018 felt like a light year musically for Fewtch. He dropped four projects, including the curated soundtrack to Superfly, but his presence wasn’t necessarily felt last year. That all changes this weekend with the release of The WZRD.

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Bandana 

One of the more underrated rappers in the game, Freddie Gibbs dropped two projects in 2018: the Curren$y-collaborated Fetti and his project with Kenny Beatz, Freddie. For the last few months he’s been teasing his follow-up to 2014’s Piñata with Madlib - Bandana. Expect more of the same heat from Freddie in the new year.

21 Savage & Young Nudy

Both 21 Savage & Young Nudy were making their rounds in 2018 with their respective solo projects, Nudy’s Slime Ball 3 and I Was  > I Am from 21. Both projects helped solidify both of their positions in the Atlanta rap scene. The two announced a collaborative project at the end of last year and have dropped a single for the project, Since When.

Chance The Rapper

Aside from the features and some loosies given to us, we haven’t received a full blown project from Chicago’s friendly neighborhood rapper since 2016’s Coloring Book. Chance has a few expected projects in the works, including his own solo album and two collaborative albums: one with Childish Gambino and the other with Kanye West. He’s been very tight-lipped about his next project, so stay tuned.

Pusha T

I don’t have many details yet, but i’ve heard through the grapevines that Pusha T would be releasing an album this year. There’s not a lot of information regarding this but at this point, anything is possible with the president of GOOD Music. 

Album review: Anderson .Paak lets you into his eclectic world with "Oxnard"

Oxnard is the 19th most populated city in the entire state of California. Approximately two hours northwest of: El Segundo, where the transcendent Kamaal The Abstract left his wallet in a legendary tale; Compton, where the cerebral Andre Young recorded a seminal masterpiece titled The Chronic, and; Long Beach, where Calvin Broadus linked up with Young to create a definitive West Coast classic nearly 25 years ago to the day. It's also home to a multi-hyphenate musician by the name of Brandon Paak Anderson - a man working on a lasting legacy of his own.

His laid-back mannerisms embody the spirit of the Greater Los Angeles area that has the essence of summertime year-round. The artist formerly known as Breezy Lovejoy makes his performances on stage and in the studio seem effortless, but a tremendous amount of work was required on this difficult path to reach the crest of his profession. Even after all he's accomplished, he's not even close to his full potential; alike to the next evolution of music consumption after streaming, the listeners won't know what to expect next, but it could potentially shift the way we view this art form.

Seven years ago, he was homeless with a wife and child after unexpectedly being fired as a weed farmer. Today, the GRAMMY-nominated 32-year-old Anderson .Paak dropped an instant album of the year contender: Oxnard, the third (solo) studio album under his current moniker. The previous two are vastly different from each other but are important to the development of a style that can't be replicated. Venice (2014) was an ambitious electro-R&B project, mixed with guitar licks and trap sounds, had a few moments but as a whole, felt unfocused. However, 2016 yielded more fruitful results. At the top of the year, the arsenal of his creative genius was on full display with Malibu, featuring his close friends The Free Nationals. The band's steady yet lively instrumentation and unforced chemistry with Andy helped to congeal any loose pockets that plagued the clunky Venice. This allowed .Paak to settle into his signature groove by exploring and destroying conventional aspects of music by combining neo-soul, funk, rap, and jazz without sounding disheveled.

The results were a critically acclaimed album in a class of its own, unbothered with fitting a singular trend; rather, Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals were inspired by various genres and smartly crafted their own vibe on Malibu. Bookended between soulful, show-stealing guest spots, a highly regarded, more "traditional" rhythm & blues performance as one-half of Nxworries further cemented .Paak as a bona fide star.

While decades of trial & error and a strong background in the church were integral to the process, the free spirit of Yes Lawd! was refined thanks in part to Dr. Dre. “You need that, because you’ll go crazy when you’re making these albums if you don’t have nobody to be your co-pilot,” said .Paak of Dre and his meticulous focus in the studio. The iconic producer-turned-mogul played the role of mentor as he's done for the past 30 years. A well documented, near-peerless industry track record like Dre’s gave .Paak a major co-sign. 16 years after the flawless 2001, Dre triumphantly returned in 2015 with Compton: a soundtrack to the summer box office hit Straight Outta Compton that was meant to showcase the rising talent from the West Coast. Nobody shined brighter on Compton than Anderson .Paak.

Three years later, fully formed as a dangerous versatile threat, he returns to the lab with The Doc to put the finishing touches on Oxnard.

“'We went in for a few more weeks and that’s when the bulk of the album actually got done,' .Paak says of the more than 10 new tracks that form the core of the record. 'And these were songs that I never thought I’d write.'"

The mission was to let the entertainment world know that he and his hometown weren't solely "LA-adjacent"; they are distinct entities worthy of more than being generalized with the rest of the mold. The cinematic feel of Oxnard reflects the rockstar life he's experienced since 2014. There's a larger-than-life boldness to this record, similar to blaxploitation era films from the '70s. The album opener The Chase featuring Kadhja Bonet, sounds like a crisp remake of a funky jam found on the Dolemite soundtrack. As he does throughout the hour-long project, .Paak vacillates here between a slick rap flow and a cool, easy, yet powerful croon. The meticulous nature of Dr. Dre's handprint is obvious in more ways than one. Relative to his previous releases, it wouldn't be out of line to say that Oxnard is Anderson .Paak's *rap* album; in that, he rhymes in a lyricist's prose for a large portion of his verses like the 9th Wonder-produced Saviers Road. The shit talking and confidence with the way he spits in on par, if not better, than a lot of rappers currently in the game.

However, it would be unfair to just categorize it as his *rap* album. It's a multi-dimensional walk down a vibrant landscape that only an engineer on the level of Dr. Dre could so expertly arrange. Oxnard, like .Paak, is genre-less. Smile/Petty featuring Sonya Elise and SiR balances smooth vocals and nasally raps over a mellow RnB tune before ending with strong, spiteful singing over heavy g-funk production. Tints is a fun groove of lead single with a Kendrick Lamar - who co-habits the space on his best behavior - as they deal with increased stardom ("Paparazzi wanna shoot ya, shoot ya, niggas dying for less here"..."I can't be flying down that 110 with a bad bitch in my whip, I need tints"). The first half of 6 Summers doesn't mesh with the stellar second half, but it's meant to be a satirical "holding a mirror to the goofy commander-in-cheeto" in the Oval Office. Cheeky Andy doesn't seek to be overtly political, but when necessary, he can make a statement on behalf of his people.

On Animals, a standout off Compton, he sings:

The police don't come around these parts
They tell me that we all a bunch of animals
The only time they wanna turn the cameras on
Is when we're fuckin' shit up, come on

The refrain for the second half of 6 Summers goes on to say:

This shit gon' bang for at least six summers
But ain't shit gon' change for at least three summers
They tryna kill a nigga faith, we need a little truth, brother
Pop-pop-pop goes the shooter
Reform, reform shoulda came sooner

Contributing to social commentary as an artist, whether heavy-handed or subtle, can never be understated with a growing platform such as his. "Ain't shit gon' change" right away, but with a concerted effort, change is possible; stating so on a project that's "gon' bang for at least six summers" is a good way to spread the message. Aside from .Paak's multi-faceted performance and expertly mixed production, the strength of Oxnard lie in the guest appearances from a star-studded lineup. The mean 808, guitar infused banger Brother's Keeper, featuring the legal malice of Pusha-T (Am I my brother's keeper, they still asking 'bout the duo // Applaud his finding salvation, But I'm still rhyming 'bout the you know); Trippy with J. Cole - a calm soothing ballad dedicated to the love of their lives; Sweet Chick featuring the great, colorful, and soulful harmonics of BJ the Chicago Kid. On Anywhere, 25 years after the creation of Doggystyle, Dre & Snoop, still, in rare form as a pairing, reconnect to help give .Paak a fresh, relaxed melodic West Coast sound. On Cheers, the rapper who lost his wallet in El Segundo 18 years prior, talks about a different loss. Q-Tip (RIP Phife) and Anderson (RIP Mac Miller) share sentiments of losing close friends and collaborators, but choose to treat it as a reflective celebration of life. The result is a vibrant Dre & Tip production brought to life with upbeat percussion and synthesizers.

Venice to Compton to Malibu to Oxnard is a modern journey unlike anyone else's in popular music today. Each project has a distinct standalone presence, using previous experiences to carefully build towards this exact moment in 2018. An artist on the precipice of becoming a mega-star is learning to become more of himself. It can't be a coincidence how the path of the location first trended towards the actual city of Los Angeles then rerouted back to the place of his birth. Oxnard is an ode to and a return presentation to his hometown to share life experiences after traveling the globe in the limelight. It's evident that he grew as a lyricist, songwriter, composer, and musician as a whole...but we're nowhere close to the peak of his abilities. Oxnard, if only a glimpse, is a step in the direction of his full potential. It's a project that'll appreciate with time.

From CRWN, a sit-down conversation with Tidal:

Elliot Wilson: you have a wide musical pallet...with your classification of music, sometimes people don't necessarily know if they should put you in the idea of what RnB is...do you hate those classifications and feel like it's just music?

"I think that people need to just first listen to the music. Like stop tryna put it and compare it and immediately say it's like this or it's like this. A lot of people aren't even listening to the music, on God. Like they not really digesting the music; they're just like one time through and they're eager to compare it...just listen! I just leave it up to the people...my job is just to make it and make sure it's honest."

He doesn't fit a particular genre because he's his own genre. He’s Anderson .Paak.

Best projects of April 2018

Maaan, the last full week of April proved to be one of the craziest weeks in recent memory.  We saw a Dream separate itself from a Nightmare, a Spaceship on a troubling descent, and the MCU's spin on the chorus of XO Tour Llif3. Amid all the madness, what shouldn't be forgotten is the number of quality music releases that came out this past month. The start of the 2nd Quarter of music has a high level of importance because of it unofficially sets the bar for the soundtrack of the Spring and Summer seasons.

Songs that are melodically dreary are quickly getting replaced by uptempo anthems for those wanting to live their best life on their worst behavior all Summer '18 (*raises hand*). Substance and lyrical depth are important, but so too are the cadences and flows on "beat-driven" tracks.

Respect the fact that some people aren't trying to hear an academic dissertation at a poolside party. On the flipside, some people aren't trying always trying to turn up and would like some introspective music for their downtime. Life's about duality. Better yet, like what Thanos said, "perfectly balanced...as all things should be." The music drops of April 2018 did just that.

Eyeless and Just JT of The Barber's Chair are here to give you their favorite projects of the month and some other notables that should be on your radar.

Flatbush ZOMBiES - Vacation in Hell

EYELESS: The trippy triumvirate "representin' BK to the fullest" has returned with their most complete project to-date, Vacation in Hell. Flatbush Zombies are comprised of 3 uniquely talented individuals: Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erick the Architect.  As explained by Erickin their GQ interview, "I feel like Vacation in Hell is about making the best out of a situation that may not be the best." A darker, less optimistic, but a no less true version of "when life gives you lemons."

During the hour+ journey through their warped sense of reality, each member brings their own bold efforts to the table on ViH. In addition to his role as the primary beat maker (self-produced all but2 tracks), Erick is a dual threat with the pen, both of which are clearly exhibited on the haunting track "Proxies." His approach to creating a boom-bap sound is meticulously imaginative and forward-thinking. Arc's production credits have helped shape the sound ofNew New York, aka Beast Coast.

Juice is a high-octane, colorfully eccentric, and flat-out hilarious artist that is far from a joke in the clownin' sense. The growth of Juice as not only a rapper and harmonizer is evident with every new drop from Flatbush ZOMBiES. Watching his progression from "Thug Waffle" to the dope and frenetically calm"Leather Symphony" (featuring a focused, yet unhinged ASAP Twelvy) has been a great thing to watch.

But wow, like LeBron James' performance down 3-1 in a series against the 73-win Golden State Warriors, Meechy Darko stepped up from an already ridiculously high level set from his past work. Being the purest MC in the group, and quite possibly New York at the moment, Meech undoubtedly puts any challengers on notice that he ain't here to play games with y'all in 2018. Clever metaphors, gravely voice with an equally gritty delivery, emphasis on being lyrical; just bars.

This has always been in his arsenal, but on Vacation in Hell, he turned the proverbial corner. A raw and confident energy surrounded his presence on "Facts," featuring Jadakiss "I'm a walkin', talkin' silhouette, the darkest rhymer //Since DMX dropped that album with blood all over his body". It'd be best to steer clear of him in battle unless you're fully prepared for the challenge.

Rapping about drugs at a high pace over bruising instrumentals isn't the only thing that appears on ViH, and that narrative is hardly the focus. This album has an interesting blend of different sounds, like "Crown" featuring an unlikely collab from the alternative rock group Portugal. the Man. The lead single "Headstone" sounds like typical New York sonics, but the lyrics are filled with odes to legendary rappers that paved the way for them.

Other tracks, such as "YouAreMySunshine" (No lie, I stopped getting high once we lost Yams // I was there the night he died, he was blue cold in my hands) or the track turning the mirror towards our country, "Best American," shows the range and honesty this group is capable of. The political state of this country, the untimely loss of loved ones (RIP to Juice's mother), falling in love, and the ills and horrors of being Black in America among other things are topics on Vacation in Hell. It's a soundtrack to and reminder to try and have some fun in the face of adversity.

J. Cole - KOD

JUST JT: Every time when J Cole wants to speak to the people, he makes sure that we stop and listen. He made it clear one day on Twitter when changing his Avi and announcing his album listening session for his 5th album KOD, which stems from 3 names; Kids on Drugs, King OverDose, or Kill Our Demons. During his live listening sessions he confirmed that this album was completed in two weeks. The overall theme behind the message of the album was overcoming the many different addictions of life, whether it’s using self medication as a means to cope, chasing and stacking money. social media obsession, etc. In the beginning of the intro, we hear the narrator say, “Life can bring much pain There are many ways to deal with this pain./ Choose wisely” which echoes throughout the album on numerous occasions to consciously  serve the listeners as a reminder in life. Coming off from his last album, 4 Your Eyez Only, I was happy to hear Cole becoming passionate again about rapping. He recalled in his interview with Vulture saying that he wasn’t in the proper headspace around the time that album needed more promotion when it came out. Although i'm a huge fan of his song Deja Vu, 4 Your Eyez Only really just came off for me as part 2 of 2014 Forest Hill Drive.

This time around on KOD with the message being preached on the album, he sounded rejuvenated and ready to rap about some real shit that needed to be said. What’s even better about this album is knowing that he’s already got another project coming soon called The Fall Out. Cole not only has been one of my favorite rappers since the 2010s time period but has also become a polarizing figure with all of the love & hate he gets from people. You just have to sit back and wonder how in the world is a little nigga that’s from Fayetteville, North Carolina making this much noise but doesn’t show nor act as if he’s famous. He does the total opposite. My favorite records off the song include Photograph, ATM, Brackets, Window’s Pain, & 1985 Outro. Brackets was truly amazing for me when he was rapping on his 2nd verse questioning the american tax system. And the curriculum be tricking them, them dollars I spend/ Got us/ learning about the heroes with the whitest of skin/ One thing about the men that's controlling the pen/ That write history, they always seem to white-out they sins. Only time will tell with what’s going to happen with The Fall Out but between that and Revenge of the Dreamers 3, Im looking forward to hearing more of Cole’s energetic raps among his Dreamville peers.

Kali Uchis - Isolation

EYELESS: For how strong it is as a whole, it feels like Isolation has been criminally under-discussed in on social media. With high-profile features such as the creative enigma Tyler, The Creator, and the legendary funk musician Bootsy Collins, one would think more buzz would surround her project, especially after it dropped. Doesn't matter. I firmly believe that the debut studio album from Kali Uchis will inevitably stand the test of time. Numbers aren't totally indicative of the quality of a project (quick aside: please cut that shit out of your music arguments on Twitter; nobody cares). If it's dope like Kali's style, it's dope and people will eventually hear it. Her voice matches her aesthetic: smokey, stunningly beautiful, with an unconventional flair. The strength of Isolation lies with the extensive production team that created a multi-faceted universe for the Colombian-American singer to get some deep feelings off her chest.

To name a few: Thundercat, Tame Impala's Kevin Parker, and hip-hop/jazz quartet BADBADNOTGOOD all had contributing roles in creating this genre-blending tape that does not like a forced soundclash. RnB, hip-hop, and soul are natural elements that mix well. But for a pop artist to include a heavy (yet authentic) Latin American influence with a sprinkle of reggaeton and bossa nova is refreshing to hear. Tracks like the dangerous sounding, slow yet beach friendly "Miami" featuring BIA and the untranslated "Nuestra Planeta" shows Kali's dedication to holding onto her native culture.

In short, the entire record is groovy as fuck. Prime example being "Just a Stranger," the Steve Lacy (and BROCKHAMPTON producer Romil) assisted, lighthearted track. She makes quick work of her 2 short verses by coolly rolling her sultry voice over the live instrumentation. Definitely some shit you'd hear at a roller rink on a Friday night...but not in a corny way. Having a team of talented writers and producers is only half of the equation. Showing up and executing what's been laid in front of you is the difficult part. Kali did not miss the mark.

With Isolation being her debut after several years in the industry, it'd be hard to imagine her not having a hands-on approach pre, during, and post-production. Even with the large crew of people in the album credits, her own musical influences can be heard loud and clear. And, the lyrics are as personal as it gets. On the Gorillaz produced "In My Dreams" - with Damon Albarn on additional vocals; let's just call it a Gorillaz feature - we hear the ideal utopia that she created in her head, cut with an undercurrent of pain (I'm never stressing my bills, nobody ever gets killed, it's the dream world...My mama's never on coke, this isn't my way to cope // Washing my mind out with soap). This, and the rest of the CD all ties into the theme of Isolation. It may seem poppy on the outside, but if you read between the lines, there's a person struggling alone with real problems. Kali Uchis put her heart on display with this excellent debut; she'll be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy

JT: America’s new favorite sweetheart Cardi B made her major label debut Invasion of Privacy on April 6th. With the way her life has been going, the debut album title is the best fit description towards Cardi’s life. Everywhere she goes, there’s always someone saying something that’s pertaining to her life, whether its about her past, her relationship with Offset, her pregnancy, etc. But even with all of the bullshit, she’s still pushes forward promoting her music and living her best life while making guest appearances on tours and shows like Saturday Night Live. First starting off back in 2017 with the smash single Bodak Yellow, Cardi began truly gaining traction from both the hip-hop audience and the mainstream world.

Outside of creating the ratchet anthems for the ladies to enjoy, she steps out of her comfort zone with different records such as Be Careful, I Like It, & Ring. Not to mention her album is only 13 tracks long which make it a perfect segway. I’m looking forward to hearing these records during the summer days. I can already hear Bickenhead, Drip, & She Bad being played all throughout Day Party Season this summer. The ladies are going to hold it down for Bartier Cardi while shes away getting ready for motherhood. When you look at Cardi’s trajectory from when she first started on Social media towards getting into Love & Hip-Hop New York and finally setting herself up with a music career, you can’t help but think about how great this current era is with building the proper fanbase.

Young Thug - Hear No Evil

JT: Jeffrey aka the artist formerly known as Young Thug voiced that initially he wasn’t going to release any music in 2018, which was then met with mixed reactions. Then one Thursday night in April, rumors started surfacing on Twitter speculating that Thugger was going to drop a surprise EP and low and behold, his 3 song EP Hear No Evil was released to the world. My favorite song from that EP was Up with Lil Uzi Vert. Overall, despite not really feeling attached to Anybody with Nicki Minaj for personal reasons, I still thoroughly enjoyed this EP from Thugger. With all of the talk with his music, he really should be way bigger than where he’s currently at but thats a different subject for a new day. In a perfect world for me, Thugger would drop maybe 2 or 3 more EPs later on in the year hinting us of a bigger project that is coming ahead. But for now we will sit back and wait to see what Thugger comes up with next. You never know what’s in stored with him and the music.

Saba - CARE FOR ME

EYELESS: No matter what new trend, steez, or wave that crashes into the shores of music, honest transparency delivered in through the conduit of storytelling will always be appreciated, especially narration that is at a high level. It's only April, but I'll be shocked if CARE FOR ME isn't mentioned amongst Album of the Year contenders come December. The self-released and extremely personal project from Saba is that damn good. The 23-year-old,SAVEMONEY-adjacent, Chicago native sounds incredibly mature for his young age. An "introspective journey haunted by trauma and deflated with social anxiety," that is somber to the point of numbness, yet engaging enough to keep your emotions stimulated.

Chances are, you've heard Saba's raps on 2 of Chance the Rapper's standout tracks from Acid Rap and Coloring Book, respectively. With all due respect to Chano, 2018 may be one of the last years that his name gets brought up in convos that begin with "have you heard of Saba?" CARE FOR ME has been getting so much attention in the world of music that he'll be a widely recognized name sooner rather than later. Like some of his Midwest collaborators such as Mick Jenkins, Noname, and Smino, there's an enthusiastic gusto in his flow. Just as rapidly as he can spit, he could easily "Pivot" on a dime to switch up his cadence to avoid any semblance of monotony.

On one of the standout tracks, "SMILE," Saba's melodic versatility is beautifully showcased here. He starts off with a smooth flow that resembles waves slowly hitting the beach during low-tide. "Smile, smile, smile, smile..." is chanted like a mantra for meditation, then BOOM. An unexpected bouncy flow where syllables are stretched then replaced in quick succession by the next line...for a period of 8 bars. Once that stanza is complete, he goes back to spazzing on the calm instrumental. Throughout this all, there is substance and depth behind these lyrics. Vivid imagery by Saba, as the rest of the album does so well to paint, puts the listener in the portrait created by his words. CARE FOR ME, a project dedicated to his late cousin Walter (referenced throughout but most prominently on "PROM / KING"), is a touching and heartfelt project full of raw emotion that's short on time but not short on fulfilling content.

Eyeless' Honorable Mentions:
Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
J. Cole - KOD
Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy
Smoke DZA - Not For Sale
The Alchemist - Lunch Meat EP
Young Thug - Hear No Evil EP (Thugga, this was fire, but what is the plan?!?)
Robert Glasper Experiment x KAYTRANADA - The ArtScience Remixes

JT’s Honorable Mentions:
NBA Youngboy - Until Death Call My Name
Jacquees - This Time I’m Serious

Check out Eyeless and JT's best projects for January, February, and March 2018

Exploring the different themes in J. Cole's "KOD"

Whether you like to call the album Kids on DrugsKing OverDose, or Kill Our Demons, it’s clear that J. Cole has a lot to get off ofhis chest with creating this incredible body of work.

God was just giving it to me like ‘Here nigga, I’ll write it for you just take the credit,’” he reportedly said to  the crowd regarding the two weeks working on this 5th album. It’s been over a year since we last heard from Cole world when he dropped his last album 4 Your Eyez Only. The whole social media world turned to chaos when Cole went onto his social media change up his avi and dropped the album title & listening sessions both in NYC and London on two separate occasions.

It felt great hearing Cole sounding motivated and hungry again with rapping and getting the message across for KOD. Cole is a polarizing figure. Whenever he just ups and decided to come out of the blue because he just says something to get off of his chest, the people will stop look, pay attention, & listen. What’s crazy is how even with all of this notoriety around him, you just how in the fuck is this man famous because at times it’s like he never tends to act like he’s famous at all. Once he’s completed everything needed in regarding his album, he suddenly goes back into hiding until the next go round.

There’s so much to soak in regarding Cole’s album. He’s explained the meaning behind the three names of the album & prompts the listeners to create their own interpretations with the album on his twitter. After carefully soaking in the album, whether it was through personal leisure, the gym, the whip, etc, i can officially confirm for myself that this was the best that I’ve heard from Cole since around 2013 with Born Sinner. Outside of Cole really rapping his ass off, he also gave the listeners substance and meaning behind each of the tracks throughout the album. Here were some of the themes covered throughout KOD.

ADDICTION

The concept of addiction arises as Cole teaching this crash course topic to uncover different addictions rooted in our everyday living, especially with the younger generation. In the album trailer for KOD, you can hear a disoriented voice of Cole (or rather we say kiLL edward) talking about the Kids on Drugs concept. “If I turn on the TV right now, it's not going to take long for there to be advertisement that says Are you feeling down? Are You been having lonely thoughts ? And then they shove a pill in your face.”

Whether it’s an addiction to chasing that almighty dollar (ATM, Motiv8, Brackets) , social media love (Photographs),  Sex (Kevin’s Heart), Drugs and alcohol  (Friends, Once an Addict Interlude), etc. Each level of addiction plays a role on the album. While speaking on the subject for King Overdose in the trailer, Cole continues discussing addiction but more on self accountability basis informing listeners that he also has been and continues to be afflicted by the same methods of  escape. That’s another way of letting others be aware that they're not the only ones. His overall end goal for this album as described during the portion for KIll Our Demons, is to face the demons that we run from, own up to them, and figure out the life traumas we faced that got us to our current predicaments that we’re in now.

MONEY & SOCIAL STATUS

Society has two of the most important aspects in life: Money & social status. These two subjects are constantly thrown in our faces around when a point is being brought up.  It’s a mechanism people use when they want things going their way.  When you’re dealing with people from different walks of life, you find that sometimes the only thing they bring to the table is their social status and money, which then results in a plethora of superficial relationships. Everybody is on a chase to obtain that almighty dollar regardless of where our morals stand in life. Without listening to the lyrics, ATM sounds like a banger but when you get in tune towards what’s actually being said, Cole is really describing him being caught up in a rat race chasing that almighty dollar

I know that it's difficult/ I'm stackin' this paper, it's sort of habitual/ I blow the residual/ And fuckin' yo bitch like its part of my ritual

Pardon the visual/ But money, it give me a hard-on it's typical/ I want it in physical/ A million dollars, I count up in intervals/ Without it I'm miserable

ATM  video shoot

ATM video shoot

My favorite Cole verse on Brackets is his second verse where he’s referencing about the american tax system. He guesses that the tax money initially is supposed to be going to improving the roads and schools but isn’t convinced any of this is getting done due to seeing the results as the homies are graduating without the proper tools to help them get by.

One thing about the men that's controlling the pen

That write history, they always seem to white-out they sins

This is one of my favorite lines on the song by the way. Brackets is the story of one's journey climbing up the social status and tax brackets, especially within the underprivileged neighborhoods.

SOCIAL MEDIA

One of the funniest things that I find intriguing was when I was listening to our home podcast Ball Don’t Lie I heard Pierce (@HennyOmega) mention that Photograph was a shot at the sadboys of Twitter. I found that very hilarious but yet accurate in a sense. Social Media over the years has been a gift and a curse for us.

It’s a gift because we’re in the information age where everything is available for us to research. Everyday there’s a new story being introduced to us about certain historical figures.People are also able to create dope platforms to showcase their talent and point of view on world topics.

It’s also considered a curse because everybody literally has access to social media. Even though it’s a good thing, it’s also bad because certain individuals ideologies are just dangerous rhetoric that will do nothing but cause harm and tear others apart.

When you listen and take in the chorus words for Photograph, you can put into thought that even though Cole may be talking from the perspective of someone lusting over someone in the internet, you can also sense the feelings of possessiveness and longing for that follow back. On Social Media, some people showcase their feelings of “please follow me back.” The things that people will do for likes and retweets can be very surprising and telling. Also reading into his verse where he’s mentioning the perfect dream woman, you can catch that this could be another mechanism of escape from reality.

LOVE & INFIDELITY

Even though it’s been mentioned that Cole could actually be singing from a stance of the person who is in love with drugs, when you watch the visual for Kevin’s Heart which featured the man himself, Kevin Hart, you can’t help but see how love & infidelity playing a part for the album indirectly. In the video, you can see Kevin living his day to day life going to the grocery store and taking meeting at a restaurant but the only difference is that you get to see the reactions of the people around him after finding out about him cheating on his current wife, Eniko Parrish. I'm really interested in hearing the conversation about what led up to deciding upon that theme for the visual.

Kevin’s Heart

Also you can find the subject of love on Photograph as well where Cole obsessing over a woman on social media depicting the social media era aspect of love and romance. During the first verse, Cole is rapping about this perfect dream girl whom he sees on social media who isn’t into gossiping and moves to the beat of her own drum.

THE DEBUT OF kiLL EDWARD

kiLL Edward was the only feature that was on KOD. He appeared on The Cut Off &  Friends. Also a couple of days before the album dropped, there was a reference track that was on Soundcloud called Tidal Wave.

There was a lot of speculation that kiLL edward is really the alter ego for J-Cole. When you listen to his voice, it sounds like a distorted voice which sounds like Cole.  It’s also a possible confirmation that  kiLL Edward is a representation of Cole’s hatred for the man who hurt his mother. You can hear it on Windows Pain (Outro) when he says “All I wanna do is kill the man that made my momma cry.” Supposedly outside of Cole making his other new project The Fall Out that's coming son, kiLL Edward may also be coming out with his own project in the future.

SELF ACCOUNTABILITY

Whether we like it do so or not, addressing an accountability amongst your loved ones can be a tough battle to face especially when it’s something necessary for both parties to reach a proper solution to help their relationships grow to the next level. It’s important for everybody to hold each other accountable for one another's actions. But when dealing with accountability, sometimes it can force to turn around and face the one person that you may not want to face: yourself.

Cole paints the picture of self accountability on the first half of Friends when it comes to dealing with his own coping mechanisms. He talks about his addictions to the point where he gets aggravated  and conflicted when he isn’t partaking in medication. But I'm aggravated without it/ My saddest days are without it/ My Saturdays are the loudest/ I'm blowing strong/ Some niggas graduated to powder/ I dabble later, I doubt it/ My database of narcotics/ It's growing long. He also revisited accountability on Window Pain (Outro) when he questions himself about his career & purpose. Right now I'm starin' out the window of my Range and/ contemplating, am I sane?/ Have I sacrificed for fame?/ My occupation's on my brain/ Thought that I could change it all if I had change

MENTORING THE YOUTH (AKA LETTER TO NEW GENERATION RAPPERS)

When you're in your prime, time always comes experience. In life, you live and you learn from your mistakes. When you get older and  in the right position in life, life is amazing. You’ll then run across other youngins who are starting off like you in the same spot and you desire to want to guide them and see them flourish by not making the same mistakes you or anyone else in your class did. Cole emphasizes a prophecy for younger rappers on what is to come for their future career on 1985 (which also serves as the Intro for his next coming project The Fall Off). He tells the young rapper that he’s supportive of their new accolades of fame and success. While he’s happy for their success, he also advises them to be weary of the new mainstream white audiences that come to their shows.

I must say, by your songs I'm unimpressed, hey/ But I love to see a Black man get paid/ And plus, you havin' fun and I respect that/ But have you ever thought about your impact?/ These white kids love that you don't give a fuck/ Cause that's exactly what's expected when your skin black/ They wanna see you dab, they wanna see you pop a pill/ They wanna see you tatted from your face to your heels/ And somewhere deep down, fuck it, I gotta keep it real/ They wanna be black and think your song is how it feels/ So when you turn up, you see them turnin' up too/ You hit the next city, collect your money when it's due/ You gettin' that paper, swimming' in bitches, I don't blame you/ You ain't thinkin' 'bout the people that's lookin' like me and you/ True, you got better shit to do

The response towards 1985 has been of mixed reactions from not only the fans but also some of the other younger rappers. Fans were trying to speculate which of the Lil’s that Cole was talking about. People speculate that Cole was talking about Lil Pump or Lil Yachty. Pump and Spaceghostpurrp have all made their responses towards Cole. People love this Cole song while others were criticizing him for allegedly taking shots at a young rappers. Personally for me, I don’t think Cole was really trying to take shots at any of the young kids but rather just telling them to wise up on some of their decision making. Of course we all know Hip-Hop is a young man's sport. But its also important for some of the kids to listen and understand what the OG’s are trying to school the younger kids on the ins and outs of the game. It’s understood that a lot of y’all are really soaking in all of this new money and opportunity that's heading in y’all direction. But all that’s being explained is to be real mindful of the people that love you and the money that you’re spending. Everything that he said on the album holds some truth and like it’s always said in life when you feel like you’re being talked about; If the shoes fit then wear it.

DEALING WITH THE GROWING PAINS OF LIFE

The KOD intro sets the tone for what the album is about. You can hear one of the phrases being echoed throughout the album. Life can bring much pain/ There are many ways to deal with this pain/ Choose wisely Life can a bitch and a half sometimes when you think about. You experience the good times and bad times in life. Especially the bad times. Life can really bring pain when it can. But at the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, It’s important to know that there's so different ways to managing your pain so choose wisely.