J Cole’s last album was pretty boring for us, I think my favorite song from that outing was God’s Gift. Since then Cole, seemed like he learned his lesson and we saw him defend himself against of all people Diggy, drop a decent first single, and his last joint Niggas Know went hard. A lot seems to be riding on this album and whether or not Cole has a future in the music game. Does this album live up to expectations? Let’s hit the break.
Best Songs: Crooked Smile, Power Trip, Let Nas Down
1. Villuminati (Produced by J Cole)
As soon as Cole says, “It’s way darker this time” mimicking Jay-Z’s “It’s different, it’s just different“, I started to cringe. But then he goes in lyrically admitting he’s a rap nerd, boasts he’s the prince of the city and speaks on being embarassed when Beyonce said she wanted a Bugatti. It’s great to hear these kind of raps again, even though it is well worn territory, particularly from the godfather of this style Kanye West.
2. Kerney Sermon (Skit)
This skit made me laugh namely because it reminded me of the interludes from Kanye’s The College Dropout. I can hear an Outkast sample in the back and was like, “oh yeah it’s about to be on!”.
3. LAnd of the Snakes (Produced by J Cole)
And then the drums kicked in. Let’s just say I was disappointed because well listen to this:
4. Power Trip ft. Miguel (Produced by J Cole)
Cole definitely got a radio hit with this one, heck he even produced it. Matter fact, he produced the majority of the album, which if you remember last time around was a criticism of Cole World.
5. Mo Money (Interlude) (Produced by Jake One
A Nas sounding interlude when Nas did those raps about inanimate objects, not really sure why Cole included it here.
6. Trouble (Produced by J Cole)
Another Cole song with a choir sample in it. Cole sounds half a sleep here and in more capable hands this instrumental could have got more mileage out of it.
Best line: “But I got dumb as shit, hanging ’round these rappers cause they dumb as shit”.
7. Runaway (Produced by J Cole)
8. She Knows (Produced by J Cole)
Who the hell listens to this? Shit is mind numbing. It’s pretty much J Cole singing about a girl (I think) but then it goes into a rest in peace shout out. This is song writing at its worst.
9. Rich Niggaz (Produced by J Cole)
Cole redeems himself here when he’s attacking the wealthy capitalist and how capitalism affected him personally.
10. Where’s Jermaine (Skit)
He has a very Kendrick Lamar sounding interlude, which is kinda weird because the next song features Kendrick.
11. Forbidden Fruit (Produced by J Cole)
Cole samples the classic Tribe Called Quest song Electric Relaxation and again fails miserably. Case in point:
Yes Cole produced his whole album and should be given props for that, but throwing a classic loop into Fruity Loops and putting some jittery drums behind them does not get props from me. Anyone can do that! Don’t me get started on the high pitch talking at the end.
12. Chaining Day (Produced by J Cole)
Cole again revisits being broke and what it was like to buy a necklace. This song is executed well and the simple production fits nicely so I really can’t hate. What am I saying, of course, I can hate, if you’re a Kanye fan you’ll know exactly where this song was inspired from.
Best line: “Swear I heard my jeweler say, ‘Here go your chain, my nigga'”.
13. Ain’t That Some Shit (Interlude) (Produced by Syience)
J Cole drops another random rappin’ interlude over a Timbaland sounding beat though made in Fruity Loops so it sounds like a cheap imitation (maybe its how it’s mixed). He brags a lot in this song, “Fuck a bitch out of wed lock” and has lines like this sprinkled throughout his album, but for some reason I don’t believe him. He also boasts he’s “well paid from this rappin’ shit” which contradicts much of the album’s subject matter.
14. Crooked Smile ft. TLC (Produced by J Cole)
Some people are upset that Yeezus is light on that the inspirational soul sampling songs Kanye made famous. But the thing is if you’re missing that just listen to this song, because here Cole delivers his own version of All Falls Down and you know what I love it! Clearly, the best song on the album. And yes I have a crooked tooth.
15. Let Nas Down (Produced by J Cole)
I remember the first time I heard Kanye’s Big Brother in ’07, I was shocked and surprised that a rapper would make a song about another rapper (who didn’t die) in an endearing way. It was ground breaking. It was fresh. Now 5 years later, we get Cole making a song about Nas and It makes me slightly cringe. Cole’s nice flip of a bluesy sax riff and his genuine honesty certainly help forget the Kanye influence.
16. Born Sinner (Produced by J Cole)
This sounds like the music in an aids commercial.
I didn’t totally hate this album, it’s just a turn off when I know where a rapper gets his inspirations from. It’s like when you take a kid to see a movie with a lot of fighting in it and they come out after doing all these karate moves. It’s cute and you smile, but then you think how can this kid be so easily influenced by this damn movie, will he do crack if his peers give it to him? The thing young artists and maybe even young fans that don’t know the source material don’t get is it is so easy to imitate. You could take any light skin dude that graduated college that grew up on Jay-Z and Kanye and he would make this exact album.
Conversely it is so difficult to innovate. It’s almost impossible to come with something new every time around, but that is what makes all of Kanye’s albums so great. He innovates his style every album and doesn’t make the same album over and over again like you know Drake. I was thinking about this a few months ago and I realized hip hop never goes back. As much as old people, long for nostalgic rap, we are never going to have hit songs that sound like they did 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. That time is gone. They used different equipment to craft their productions, which you can’t easily replicate with today’s software. I know I ragged on FL Studio a little, but the thing is FL is good for certain sounds, and not good for others. The key is to use it for the sounds that it is good for and to even try to use it to be innovative. Hip hop is the only kind of music that tries to push the boundaries and surprise the audience. This album had no surprises other than Cole got better at using Fruity Loops. If you want to listen to entertaining socially conscious rap with great production, check out Macklemore.