Best Songs: Lights Please, Sideline Story, Cole World, Never Told, Rise and Grind, God’s Gift
We all know J. Cole’s story he was signed two years ago by the God-Mc Jay-Z making him the first rapper on Roc Nation, dropped a few “acclaimed” mixtapes, and has had some decent singles such as “Who Dat” and “Blow Up”. With such backing, it’s a no brainer that Cole would be on the verge of securing a platinum plaque with his latest effort Cole World: The Sideline Story. Unfortunately he won’t.
Why? Because he simply doesn’t have that “it” or as Simon Cowell puts it that “ex-factor”. While it is commendable that Cole produced 12 of the 16 cuts on Cole World and it’s also commendable that his subject matter isn’t the normal (money, hoes and clothes), Cole just doesn’t seem to have the ability to connect. But we’ll get to that later, for now let’s get to the track breakdown.
1. Intro (Produced by J. Cole)
Cole’s favorite subject naturally is talking about getting signed to Jay-Z and on his intro he tries to make a rap about it but it comes off as cliche, with lines like “I’ll never fold, I’m coming for what I’m owed”.
2. Dollar and a Dream III (Produced by The University, J. Cole, Canei Finch, Ron Gilmore)
Things pick up on the second cut thanks to some banging production. However, Cole is so vague and general it’s hard to even care. Only thing interesting is how Cole tries to channel Jay-Z’s classic Dynasty intro for the first verse.
3. Can’t Get Enough featuring Trey Songz (Produced by J. Cole)
While Cole’s idol is Tupac he fails to take Pac’s most important aesthetic, his conviction. When Pac said “I will fuck your bitch you fat mutherfucker” it was believable, not because Pac was some mindless thug, but because he was crazy enough to do it. Cole doesn’t sound like he talks to too many girls and here like on his other “girl songs”, comes across as cold (and not in a good way).
4. Lights Please (Produced by J. Cole)
This is supposedly the song that captured Jay-Z’s ear, it was probably the ear that made Kingdom Come. I kid. This is actually a decent song and would have been a great first single even if it is a few mixtapes old.
5. Interlude (Produced by J.Cole)
The strange thing about these interludes is that J. Cole, the person, sounds like a funny guy, why isn’t he like this on records?
6. Sideline Story (Produced by J. Cole)
Another banging 90’s esque beat courtesy of Cole as he depicts his rise from a North Carolina kid to Roc Nation’s first signee. These type of tracks when Cole is not forcing it, are his strong suit. Unfortunately Cole’s big raps, don’t match his poor hook choices, which become a reoccurring problem throughout the album.
7. Mr. Nice Watch featuring Jay-Z (Produced by J. Cole)
While I do like the way the dub-step production sounds, though it’s obviously inspired by Watch The Throne , Cole’s flow and swag are so off I feel embarrassed for him. Cole’s whole style has been that he’s the “every man” and now he’s rubbing in our faces how nice his watch is? Just to be clear, I wouldn’t have a problem with that if the song was actually good. Jay-Z somehow makes things more awkward.
8. Cole World (Produced by J. Cole)
Another banging beat, I feel could have gone to a better artist. Imagine if Kendrick Lamar or even Lil Wayne got to spazz over this? Cole just sounds like he’s trying to hard. In fact by the end of the track Cole starts repeatedly saying “I got what you need right here” like he’s unsure.
9. In the Morning featuring Drake (Produced by L&X Music)
I’m not so sure what’s so good about this song? I’d rather listen to Rick Ross’ on the same subject matter at least he’ll say some funny shit. Speaking of funny shit, I hate Drake’s line “I love thick women cause my aunt she rode equestrian”. I know he’s trying to make a connection to a girl’s ass and a horses posterior which was popularized by Kanye’s line from Last Call, “Girl he had with him ass could have won the Horse awards”, but Drake’s line makes no sense. On a side note the fact we’re not talking about Cole’s verse should tell you something about it.
10. Lost Ones (Produced by J. Cole)
A song about a couple going though an abortion would be a great time for a rapper to connect with his audience right? Not Cole. He sounds like he’s reading an essay aloud in class rather then making a song on such an important subject matter. I don’t have any facts to back this up but I doubt Cole’s girl ever had to get an abortion.
11. Nobody’s Perfect (featuring Missy Elliot) (Produced by J. Cole)
Missy Elliot saves an otherwise song you would never listen to again until she starts singing “We rolling we riding, he like to go inside-ing”. My virgin mind. I’m all for BBW but come on son.
12. Never Told (Produced by No I.D.)
Finally a good song. Just take this moment to enjoy it, it’s taken 11 tracks to get here.
13. Rise and Grind (Produced by J. Cole)
J. Cole uses the classic Jay-z quote from Hardknock Life about the rapper eating applejacks who want’s his spot, which has been used before (Joe Budden) but Cole uses it to better effect. Cole crafts a huge beat and rap wise does it justice. It really feels like his main reason for being a rapper is not to make catchy radio songs but just to diss rappers (we’re not mad about that).
14. God’s Gift (Produced by J. Cole)
My favorite song on the album. Hard drums and soul. Cole even steps it up a few bars in with the line “Jigga wouldn’t even take my cd when he see me now two years later on, we on, on to the Blueprint.” I also enjoyed how he went after Chris Brown, I mean women beaters on the second verse. I really hope they drop this as a single.
15. Breakdown (Produced by J.Cole)
Cole recounts growing up without a father and dealing with his mother’s substance abuse. While I’ve heard other rappers like Joe Budden make better songs with similar subject matter, Cole actually connects with the audience, likely because this is his real life he’s talking about.
16. Work Out (Produced by J. Cole)
Likely the worst rap song currently on the radio. I don’t even want to provide conscrutive critisim on it.
It’s safe to say this isn’t Cole’s “Reasonable Doubt” or even Kanye’s “College Dropout” (which he so desperately wants). What this is, is a refreshing debut from a mainstream rapper that fails only because Cole forces it to. By producing over 75% of the album, not yet finding his rapper voice, pandering to a 90’s sound and being a generally boring rapper J. Cole will not be competition for Drake or even Wiz Khalifa. If Cole could better fuse his Southern upbringing with his 90’s New York sound he may have a shot (I see you Kendrick), but I’m on the fence and not the sideline until then.