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Earlier this week J. Cole released his third official studio album, and it may be his best one yet. With seemingly no label pressure to put pop-radio hits on the album, J. Cole seems to be in full control and sounds more confident. With no guest features and the album named after his childhood home address, it’s probably J. Cole’s most personal, introspective album to date. He spends time reflecting on his childhood, his place in hip-hop, and the journey he’s had to go through in order to purchase his home after it was foreclosed about a decade ago.
The album starts off deep, as the first song after the intro is named after Cole’s birthday. Over the next couple songs he takes us through some of his teenage experiences, including losing his virginity, and that moment when you realize you need to start making decisions for your future rather than worrying about being cool. This is followed by the two hardest tracks on the album, a song with different perspectives on “A Tale of Two Citiez”, and the highly publicized braggadocios track “Fire Squad”. Things take a drastic turn after this, as Cole gets more and more introspective with every track, with songs about his fame, groupies, past relationships, and family. He closes with an important message on “Love Yourz”, basically telling us to be thankful for what we have, before a long outro/thank you track similar to Kanye West’s “Last Call”.
Overall, while there are songs on his previous albums I might like more than most of these songs, 2014 Forest Hills Drive is Cole’s best beginning-to-end listen. Nothing on here is as corny as “Crooked Smile”. There are some songs where he does more singing than rapping that I’m not vibing well with, but I appreciate the soulfulness Cole has when he sings. There are also some songs (like “Wet Dreamz”) that I don’t need to hear more than once, but the album has strong replay value overall, and I appreciate the direction J. Cole went with this album.
My Grade: B
My Joint (the proper audio isn’t on Youtube, so I’ll just leave you with this):
Remember to check back here tomorrow to see which album came in at #14 on the countdown!