Album Review: J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive

Release Date: 9th December 2014
Genre: Hip Hop
Label: Roc Nation
Purchase: iTunes & Google Play

Cole is a master beat smith, but his lyrics don’t equal the high standards of his production

Cole took more of a melodic approach to the lyrics, while the production took more of a mid 90s and early 00s sound. This works great mostly but, on songs like “Hello” the synths just sound out of place; the song feels like a desperate attempt at being liked because of them. Which is a shame because it’s far from being bad without the cheap choice of synths.

On songs like “Fire Squad” and “G.O.M.D” Cole is in full Hop Hop MC mode, claiming that he’s the greatest – as all rappers do. Such a believer of the role he’s playing on the song and the words he’s rapping he even begins attacking fellow musicians. While that’s not surprising, as rappers have been doing it for as long as I can remember; the language in one of the bars is surprising. Cole raps, “This year I’ll probably go to the awards dappered down/ Watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile.” Cole’s mother is white but that doesn’t take the sting from the line away.

“Cole you might be
Like the new Ice Cube, meets the new Ice-T
Meets 2 Live Crew, meets the new Spike Lee
Meets Bruce like Wayne, meets Bruce like Lee
Meets ’02 Lil Wayne, in a new white tee” – J Cole on “Fire Squad”

“Love Yourz” is the album’s best song; good production (that has a hint of Kanye’s “Last Call”), good lyrics and a powerful message, “no such thing as a life much better than yours.” On it Cole is at his most humble reflecting on days when his life was simpler even admitting, “being broke was better.”

The listening experience was far better than a traditional album’s, having not been exposed to any of the album’s content before listening my reaction to the songs was a pure one. Not knowing what to expect was a refreshing enjoyable experience, to having heard 3 or 4 singles by the time an album is released. Cole is a master beat smith, but his lyrics don’t seem to equal the high standards of his production. Mastering two disciplines must be hard and while Cole is a better rapper than many of his Producer-rapping cohorts (Timbaland, Pharrell, Dr. Dre, Alchemist and Havoc to name a few), like them he is a better producer than he is a rapper.

There’s alot of good beats and a few good songs but you’ll feel short changed if you pay for this. Save your money for Kendrick’s album.

J Cole’s new album 2014 Forest Hills Drive was released today and is available on iTunes and Google Play. You can also stream the album on Spotify.