Wednesday, December 31, 2014

J.Cole- 2014 Forest Hills Dr. (2014)

Why did I review the album?  He’s my favorite artist (of the newer ones)
Did I like it? Still not sure (but I think so)
Will I listen again? Yes, for multiple reasons. I still don’t know exactly how I feel about this album.
I feel like Cole was going to have a hard time pleasing me with this album regardless of what he put out. Cole’s got a formula that he’s used to gain popularity in his mixtapes and his first two albums. So if he made the same type of music for this album, I’d have been a bit bored (not that the songs would be bad) because he’s made five collections of music using that formula. At some point, I’d want him to step out of his original niche and experiment a little bit. However, the other end of the spectrum is that he’d try something so foreign that there wouldn’t be a hint of the old J. Cole that made me love him as an artist. In this album he tried a mix of both, but leaned a little heavier on the experimental side. The problem is, I don’t like a majority of the experimental things he tried with this album.
I really want to give this album three spins, but considering that I gave Birdy and Sam Smith three spins, I can’t give this three stars with a good conscience. However I am very glad I got this album and would do it again in a heartbeat.  
My Favs
3. No Role Modelz
2.  January 28th
1. 03’ Adolescence
Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Spins 
Intro- Cole takes a page from Drake and tries to sing out his thoughts. I appreciate the attempt to go out of your comfort zone, but I’ll take Cole lyricism over his singing any day. It’s a nice twist though. N/A
January 28th- I love the vibe we get from this. It’s smooth and chill, but not boring. Also it allows Cole lyrics to take center stage. What we get is a song that discusses various issues (some serious, some not) in a clear and calm manner. It’s also clear to me that he is very comfortable with his style. The best example of this is at the end of the song where he goes after Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Well, it’s more like a response to Lamar’s verse on Big Sean’s song (Control). In that song Lamar essentially said (I’m paraphrasing but the gist is the same) I like you all, but I’m better than all of you. Which would mean he is the king of the game. In this song, Cole goes on the offensive and tells everybody that they might be good rappers, but they aren’t Cole. I have to give both songs credit because they both established the belief that each is better than the other without resulting to name calling. Where I think this one exceeds Lamar’s is that this one is far more relaxed and controlled manner. (to be honest it’s a matter of preference) I found Lamar’s to be a bit too much, but this one managed to hit the sweet spot in terms of arrogance and confidence. 4.5/5
Wet Dreamz- The story of J. Cole losing his virginity. To be honest, I really don’t want to know this, but through his storytelling he managed to engage me.  I think it was his frankness that did it for me. For instance, the line “Hadn’t been in p**** since the day I came out one. “That line accomplishes two things. 
1.       It’s funny (although a nasty visual). And for someone like me that could care less about J. Cole sexual life comedy is the cure. It lowers people guard and automatically makes something more personal (which increases investment in the story)
2.       It makes him relatable. I can’t speak for everyone, but I imagine most men can relate to the questions that he asks about women and sex
The only other note I have to say about this is that I wonder if he’s lying about the encounter. It’s a bold accusation to make but hear me out. In his song Too Deep for the Intro he says “should I admit that a slutty b**** was my first smash? Was inexperienced so….. The point is, at the end of the song the girl claims she is a virgin, so unless the meaning of slut has changed, both can’t be true. The only other possibility is that after sleeping with Cole she became one. Honestly it doesn’t matter that much, it was something that I picked up on and was curious about. 3.5/5
03’ Adolescence- I love this beat because it fits the song so well. It feels raw. Considering the content of the song Cole couldn’t have picked a stronger beat to compliment the subject matter. This song does two things that I really appreciate.
1.       I’m not sure if he did this on purpose, but It tells you a lot about what Cole’s life was like growing up. 
2.       This song is aptly named because it deals with Cole trying to find out who he is and who he wants to be.
It’s kind of cliché that each looks up to the other, but I didn’t mind it because my best friend and I have a similar relationship. It shows you that regardless of what value you see in yourself that other people may find the qualities you possess as desirable even if you don’t find value in it. It also shows that we want things we don’t have. I also like the fact that his friend is able to reassure him and make him realize that the skills he has are valuable. Also, I like the fact that through this song I realized that the qualities you possess color your prospective. Furthermore, regardless of personality or lifestyle we all have fears and shortcoming. 5/5
A Tale of 2 Citiez- I HATE chopped rapping. I’ve been through it before so I won’t waste time explaining.
Part of me wonders whether I should learn to accept chopped rapping as an evolution of rap because everyone seems to do it these days, but I can’t bring myself to do it. If you can the follow the story he’s actually talking about some important things, but the segmented nature of the storytelling annoys me and makes me not care about what he is discussing. Therefore as a rapper you’ve failed. Still I can’t completely hate it, even if the method of storytelling repeatedly shoots itself in the foot. 2.5/5
Fire Squad-   I hate the chorus although it is a step away from the norm for him. It was an attempt to try something out of his comfort zone.  I respect the attempt to do something different, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
But I did love when he compared himself to all the other people in the song. I thought it was funny and a unique way of saying that he’s unique.
Now to the part everyone wants to talk about. To put it simply, I couldn’t disagree more. For you to subscribe to his belief, then you have to believe that hip-hop is owned by black people. Are the majority of people that make hip hop music minorities and African Americans? Yes, but that doesn’t give you the right to own it. Music is free and universal, so to say that hip-hop or rap or any genre of music belongs to a certain race is stupid, shortsighted, and plain wrong. I’d say the same thing if a rock band decided that rock is for white people and that everyone else should stay out. 
However, I did find the Iggy Azalea crack funny. Was it rude? Probably. Was it unprofessional? Yes. Was it funny? Definitely. Is what he said about her true? HELL YEAH. Should he have said it? Probably not. I’m not sure why he says these things then takes it back right after. If you are going to say something like that, go all in and own it, don’t back out (and then cower back in right after you JUST backed out). He did the same thing when he dissed Diggy Simmons. I don’t even think he should have said any of it, but once you say it, you should own it.
As for the others that he named, I’m not sure what he gained by going after them. At best he made it harder for himself by potentially alienating people that could help him later on. Timberlake, and Eminem are megastars in their own right and Macklemore has a loyal following and a similar story (in terms of their journey in the music industry) to Cole that fans of Macklemore could easily identify with. Cole’s gained a loyal fan base with years of hard work, but of the people involved, I believe his following is the smallest. By coming after them for no reason he greatly decreased the chances of working with these artist (considering the statement he made, I doubt he’d want to) and potentially gaining new fans through their established fan bases. 3/5
  St. Tropez- I don’t care much for the lyrics of this song. There are a lot of nice individual pieces in this song. The saxophone gives the song a jazzy feel that I appreciated and the violin makes several appearances at various points. I also liked the lady in this song. She fits the dreary dragging nature of the song well. I’m a bit surprised though. Usually individual pieces work together to make the song better. In this case, the individual pieces are stronger than the finished product each help to create. 3/5
G.O.M.D.-   Did anyone else get the “the little train that could” vibe from this as I did. Also he’s doing a lot of singing in this one and he’s a worse singer than Drake so we all know how I feel about this.  I don’t really care for the lyrics in this song. However, the instruments save it from becoming useless drab. The saxophone appears at various points and gives the song a jazzy feel. There a violin that get a solo as well. Also the lady in the background does a nice job as well. There is a portion where part of a speech is played. I liked that as well. Surprisingly though, I find each individual part more impressive than the whole it produced. A little different from his usual style. To be honest I found this song kind of funny.
For me, this song reminds me of She Will by Lil Wayne. When that song came out I thought it was a bit crude, but because Wayne didn’t make music like that often (now it seems to be his calling card) I let it pass and although I cringed a bit, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the song. I have that same reaction to this song. 3/5
No Role Models- I really like this beat and this song. If he makes another single, this would be a perfect choice. It’s similar to Power Trip in that it has some powerful content and a message but manages to maintain the fun atmosphere that would ensure some radio play. 4/5
Hello-  Like this whole album, this song has a tinge of old Cole mixed with the highly experimental Cole that is very apparent in this album. 2.5/5
Apparently- I usually rail against artist that do this but Cole is doing a mix between singing and rapping in this song and I like it.
This time around his voice sounds kind of raw if that makes any sense and I found that alluring. Also for the first time in a long time, this song has a lot of content.
I like the beat too. Cole must like it too because he gives it time to shine towards the end. 4/5 
Love  Yourz- This is the most J. Cole like song on the album. By that, I mean it follows his formula. A nice beat that holds the song together and works as a conduit for the life experience that serves as the content for his songs. Add some straightforward rapping and his usual flowing style and it’s a typical Cole track. 3.5/5
Note to Self-  I was dreading listening to this song because of its length. Even J. Cole doesn’t get 15min for one track (well I guess he does because I ended up listening to it). Only the first 3 minutes is the actual song, the rest is a thank you to everyone that made the album possible.
As far as the actual song, I really like it. It’s one of the few risks he took that paid off in my eyes.  He’s doing some sing-talking in this one, but it didn’t bother me much this time. The reason is that he found a way to blend in this time. The main focus was on the choir and on the beat, so his singing didn’t bother me.
It’s also a clever twist on thank you songs. He starts the song by saying I don’t matter, so don’t s*** matter. So when we get to the end, we realize that the people do matter to him and he realizes that without his team he would not do as well as he does. And if you listen, he’s teasing us about what is to come when he says you’ll see in the end.  And the lyrics I’ve got a feeling there is something more could also be alluding to the ending as well (or his feeling of genuine love for the people he’s worked with or both).   
Speaking of the end, he literally thanks personally everyone that he can think of. It’s something similar to what he did on the Warm Up during Last Call, but this one is WAY longer. As much as I love Thank You by Jin that song was much safer (though more complex) because he wrapped his thank you’s into a song, so even if you do not know exactly who those people are, you can lose yourself in the beat or rappers flow.  The way Cole does it is straightforward stand up style delivery. He takes center stage and talks about people that none of the audience knows personally. That makes this very risky. The thing that made it pay off for me was that I care about Cole and his journey and I want to know about the people that made it possible.  

Thank You by Jin is still my favorite thank you song, but this one is very good. 4/5


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