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The career trajectory of J. Cole to this point is a huge part of this album. Entitled cole world: the sideline story a lot of the songs deal with J. Coles desire to make it to the top to where his mentor Jay-Z is (Mr. Nice watch, Gods gift, Rise and shine). Billed as hip hops latest in a line of saviors after two acclaimed mixtapes, 2007's the come up and 2009's the warm up, showing great potential from the young man from North Carolina. His whole life changed when one of his strongest songs "lights please" (included here is an improved remastered version) from the warm up was heard by Jay-Z one of the worlds biggest rappers. He was signed as the flagship artist to Jay's new RocNation label increasing the hype to huge levels. However Cole was soon brought back to reality when he was placed on the back burner by the label whilst less talented artists such as Willow Smith were pushed. This prompted the release of much of his original album as a mixtape entitled Friday Night Lights containing the single in the morning with now superstar Drake (also included here). Finally his album has been released to high expectations from fans and critics alike, with demand for nothing short of a classic. However, the album falls slightly short of this fabled status but should not be judged adversely because of this.
The weaker points of the album seem to be attempts at radio hits forced upon him by his label with songs such as can't get enough (featuring a woeful hook from Trey Songz) a long way off the best of what Cole has to offer as shown by the inclusion of average first single "work out" as a mere bonus track. For his best look no further than the heartfelt and thought provoking "lost ones" concerning the often taboo subject of abortion, The way Cole confronts this from the two points of view within a young couple results in a great conceptual song. This was recorded a few years ago before he was signed making you wonder what this album could have been if Cole was left to his own devices. Other high points include the head nod inducing gods gift and rise and shine as well as the two tracks lifted from his past mixtapes which are without doubt some of his strongest but may frustrate long term fans who have had these songs for a number of years.
In conclusion, this album is a mixed bag containing some of the best (lost ones, dollar and a dream III) and worst (can't get enough, work out) of Cole. It provides a great introduction to new comers to the young fayetville man which may encourage them to delve into his superior mixtape offerings. When viewed subjectively however it is a very strong album and among the best mainstream hip hop offerings of this past year,.
J Cole burst onto the hip hop scene in 2011 as a breath of fresh air to the genre and a mixture of melodies which display his diversity and rapping skills. With 18 tracks, J Cole produced 15 of the track's beats which demonstrates his genuine music talent and interest in his own album's success. Signed to Jay Z's label the album boasts a lot of mainstream featuring artists such as Drake, Missy Elliot, Trey Songz and the man Jay Z himself.
The first single released off the album which drew my attention to him as a new artists was "Work out" which if anyone has heard, will know it off the bat from the repetitive beat that has everyone humming along! Although from last year, the song is still played until now and I always turn it up when it comes on the radio in my car!
His other released single with Trey Songz "can't get enough" is also a catchy rhythm, with this I feel his songs are not as raw as other rap artists out there so a lot more relatable and easy to listen to.
J Cole is always compared to Drake, but I find he differs in his style or rapping, and the distinctiveness between the 2 artists is clear on the track "In the Morning" (one of my favourite songs!) in which they both use their flows to rap about women (always a popular topic with rappers of course!) and bedroom antics, but the tune is so smooth it doesn't feel dirty at all, but makes you want to lay in bed with both of them all day...aww!!
Songs like "Nobody's perfect" which features Missy Elliot singing the chorus (yes singing!) is a perfect song for couples out there in love and is constantly on repeat on my ipod on my way to work. The chorus is infectious and catchy and the melody will convert anyone to a J Cole fan, even if just of this one song!
As is expected of most rap artists these days, J Cole raps of his own personal experience, and on tracks like "Breakdown" he talks about his father, and his mother's drag addiction. Albeit not in as much graphic and a lyrically challenging flow as Eminem but he is a new artist with his first mainstream album which he can only improve on. Nonetheless he is a good story teller and any listener will still understand his point of view and relate :)
All in all, a solid album which I can have playing in my car round and round and sing/rap along!
Available from amazon, itunes and other retailers, probably around £7.99 now!