J. Cole’s love for hip-hop is probably the one thing that keeps him on that thin line between successful emcee and mainstream mockery. The lead singles for this album (“Power Trip” and “Crooked Smile”) just weren’t for me at all, but I guess Cole needs to go after Drake’s fanbase in order to keep his spot on that Roc Nation roster. I always said that he sounds like a more talented version of Drake, but he really brought the moisture levels up with the singles and a few other songs on this album. That being said, this is still a really enjoyable album as Cole is able to find a good balance between the RnB-heavy songs and the hip-hop songs.
J. Cole makes it a point to show that while he needs to make pop radio hits to get his album out on a major label, he’s still a core hip-hop fan and artist by paying tribute to legends on songs like “Let Nas Down”, “LAnd of the Snakes” and “Forbidden Fruit” (do your research if you don’t recognize the samples on the latter two). With some smooth flows on songs like “Trouble” and “Rich N*****”, a couple of interludes dedicated to straight rapping, plus some good bonus tracks, this makes out to be a solid album. As per his usual, he raps with good rhymes and decent punchlines, but even at his best he’s not really saying anything new that matters to me. It’s a nice sounding mainstream hip-hop album that actually has some good raps on it, but not much of what J. Cole says on this album is fresh and ground-breaking (girls, money, capitalism, girls, we’ve heard it all); and his rhyming and wordplay, while good, aren’t enough to make an exceptionally great album on their own.
For more on J. Cole, check out my concert review from October here.
My Grade (based on how well I connected with it, no disrespect if your experience was different): B
Come back to my blog tomorrow to see which album or mixtape came in at #22 on the countdown!