J.Cole within the past year or two has takened his role as the “People’s Rapper” very seriously. If it isn’t professing acts of activism(Him showing up at Ferguson and doing tributes for slain Teenager Mike Brown), Doing shows in his state charging fans only 1 Dollar for a his Dollar and a Dream shows or inviting struggling single mothers to leave in his old home in Fayetteville NC. The people embraced him back because during a time where every rapper or entertainer is either selling out, purposely sinking their head in the sand to real issues going on, Or fearfully remaining quiet out of fear of losing their millions. Cole is tacking on a gamble with his career at this point. Not only with the stances he has takened but also releasing his 3rd album titled J.Cole 2014 Forest Hill Drive with NO video, Single, Promotion, or commercial appeal.
What impressed me about J.Cole is that his willingness to continue to study the greats before him. He has came a long way skill-set wise and production wise from his first album. Whereas Born Sinner was more lyrically aggressive, 2014 Forest Hill Drives showcases Cole as his most vurnalable artistically. He’s seen that all of the glamour behind the business isn’t gold, He seen injustice amongst his people and thats a reflecting theme throughout this album. The Intro to the album set off the vibe perfectly. It speaks to those who are currently struggling with demons in their lives and speaks to the listener about wanting true freedom. That perfectly leads to January 28th where he takes you on a tour through his inner thoughts of where he’s currently at in life, He talks about coming up in the Industry, Ferguson, and the his current stance as an emcee whom trying to break out of the mold and finding his own niece.
One of the most bold artistic risks I’ve heard a rapper take was on Wet Dreamz where Cole talks about the insecurities and fears that many High School and College students experience and thats having sex for the first time. Its a heavy risk considering hip hop machismo/playa image is still prominent within the culture that Cole would actually speak from the prospective of a man whom is insecure about pleasing a chick he just met. But it also humanizes him which makes him more appealing to the regular joe.
Songs such as Adolescence and A Tale of 2 Citiez both flow well with the album because they both tell stories about different aspects of Cole’s life. Adolescence speaks on Cole’s desire for a new-found lifestyle as a broke College Student and him being blind to the Grass is Green on the other side mentality. He reflects on how abstinence fathers played a role in his insecurities and he starts to question who he really is. A Tale of 2 Citiez is a tale of how Cole moved to NY and caught up in the fast paced NY lifestyle due to his naiveness of being from a smaller city.
My personal favorite track of the album is actually the one that’s sure to please the hard-core hip hop heads and thats Fire Squad. Here Cole tackles the hot topic of Black Music being white washed by the Powers that Be and acknowledged Justin Timberlake, Iggy Azalea, Elvis Presley and Eminem as the main perpetrators. Although Cole ended the line with saying “he was only joking” The message still remains that not everybody in hip hop is not accepting the “Politics as Usual” method and by speaking out Cole may have gained more support.
My other personal favorite track is St. Tropez which with its laid back elements and soulfully rich production, Sounds like something influential from the Mighty Mos Def. Cole’s singing has clearly improved from his first album as well as his production value which perfectly blends with the soulful vibe.
G.O.M.D. was possibly the weakest song on the album due to it sounding very generic in comparison to the previous songs on the album. Perhaps its just Cole’s way just like the Mr Watch track to poke fun at the industry. The only difference is that he’s poking fun at rappers poor attempts of making a club banger.
Role Modelz while flow wise is on point may be considered contradicting to the theme of the album. Especially with his usage of the term bitches and hoes. However with Cole, You should expect that there’s a message behind his method and if you listen to the surface, He’s venting about the frustration of how there’s no more good women. He even sampled a George Bush excerpt which brought some comic relief.
The album ends pretty strong with Hello, Apparently and Love Yourz. Hello and Apparently has Cole tackling different parts of his relationship with a former fling and how he could have made things right on his end. Love Yourz is the appropriate way of closing the album and possibly his strongest performance lyrically. Its full of insightful gems.
The album ends with a 14 minute outro where he’s thanking everyone who supported him on his quest to stardom. I also find it interesting how he wanted to throw the olive branch at Drake and Kendrick to be unified instead of beefing. Many people may find this dissapointing that he spent 15 minutes thanking people but nevertheless its justified considering he didn’t have time to turn in liner notes for any shoutouts or acknowledgements. Overall this was possibly one of the best albums of 2014. Very insightful, soulful,and enticing. Possibly Cole’s best project so far!
Vic Rating 10 outta 10