Keepin’ it Blunt – J. Cole Really Needs to Step up his Game

There has always been this common criticism that plagued J. Cole’s entire career, where skeptics were quick to separate him from today’s biggest like Kendrick Lamar or even Drake…

J. Cole recently set the Hip-Hip world on fire with the release of his fourth studio album, 4 Your Eyez Only. The album came as a surprise to fans, as it was only announced a week in advance of its December 9th release date—similar to how he went about releasing his double-platinum-featureless 2014 effort, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. With no singles—unless you count the two Eyez documentary tracks “False Prophets” and “Everybody Dies”—J. Cole went ahead and dropped his 4th major release as expected. However, what wasn’t expected was the dull 10-track album that J. Cole served fans the night of the 8th. From start to finish, the album provided lacklustre beats and music paired with his usual deep and conscious subject matter. Upon listening to J. Cole’s record, it was immediately evident that something was up—why was it so bland?

There has always been this common criticism that plagued J. Cole’s entire career, where skeptics were quick to separate him from today’s biggest like Kendrick Lamar or even Drake, saying that the messaging in his music is there, however, his tracklists were comprised of mediocre-at-best content. Being a J. Cole fan, I never understood this. Cole World: The Sideline Story was a stunning introduction for Cole to the mainstream, with flashy production and meaningful songwriting that made his first studio effort one of the best first albums for any artist in a long time. Even what many believe to be his least interesting effort, 2013’s Born Sinner, was a fantastic project that highlighted the dualistic nature of Cole as well as the everyman in contemporary society; in fact, this was actually my favorite album of his. Fast forward to 2014 Forest Hills Drive and fans received a great album full of bangers laced with interesting and satisfying concepts that certified the project as a must-listen. So of course, given my history with J. Cole’s music, I was shocked to find that at first I did not really enjoy 4 Your Eyez Only, and, furthermore, I only enjoy it a little bit now.

To Keep it Blunt…

J. Cole really needs to step up his game because his formula has become stale; somewhat like Nas circa 1998, where he is still a great artist but has failed to create anything superior or even on-par with his earlier work. Both these artists’ inability to age gracefully through Hip-Hop has taken a toll on them. Not only is J. Cole’s album the least interesting of all of his projects—including his beloved pre-fame mixtapes—to make matters worse it’s also one of the shortest and it lacks any significant standout songs like what could be found on previous albums. Maybe J. Cole’s steadfast decision to separate himself from all mainstream culture isn’t working out for him as good as it may seem because he’s disconnected, and doesn’t know what fans and Hip-Hop want/needs from him at this time. Maybe he just needs to dip his toes outside of his camp a bit more and separate himself from all of the yes-men.

J. Cole is one of today’s most important artists; he brings balance to an industry that is chock-full of mediocre music consisting of themes of violence and messages of debauchery. No one wants to see him fall off, including me, so it is crucial that stans of Jermaine set aside their biases as much as possible and call this album for what it truly is: a meaningful sentiment with average-poor execution. Here’s hoping J. Cole can improve upon his sound and find one that fits nicely with his fantastic subject matter.