J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive – The STiXXclusive Review

Well, this album seemingly came out of the blue and I can pretty much thank & blame Beyoncé for making this a trend (well, possibly) with the short notice of attention to drop an album out of the blue with little to no promotion. Honestly, I feel like in this day in age, you have to sneak up on people if you’re high profile. People hate waiting for things now. In the Internet age, the bandwidth gets faster, the browsing gets faster, and the attention spans lessen each and every day. People aren’t satisfied with waiting. They want it when it’s pretty much finished mixing in the studio to go right onto their computers, iPods, and car stereos. It’s the way of the world, and most people are adapting to that thesis. With that being said, I have no idea what I was supposed to be looking forward to with this album, because obviously nobody else did. That was the beauty of it and the anticipation was real. After taking some time off to promote Born Sinner, popping up at some random events (Roundhouse Park in Toronto for a free show, for example), and making his presence felt in Ferguson after the Mike Brown shooting (which he also dropped a heartfelt song for), J. Cole has truly emphasized his stature as a man of the people, and I’m sure he gained a lot of respect for people as he’s using his platform to address the issues that everyday Black Americans face daily. In his year of growth, he also bought his first house – oddly enough his childhood house in Fayetteville, North Carolina that happened to be foreclosed while he was away. It’s his way of paying back to not only his community, but to the person that means the most, his mother. A lot of people (let’s go with celebrities this time around) come across as forgetting where they came from when they make it big, but a lot of them always have their homes attached to their motivations through their journey. Sometimes it’s our humble beginnings that can bring us inner peace and it can reveal the right things to let us know just who we are as people and just what we value – more times than not, it has lead to being back home where the heart is, and that’s where J. Cole has taken his fans back to. With his little word of mouth promo that he did, part of it was going to people’s houses and playing the album for them, going to colleges, and even inviting fans to his home to listen to it. That must have been an incredible experience, but it speaks to the type of person that Jermaine Cole is, and just what people still refuse to give him credit for – being himself. Minus the first album, where he stepped out of his own artist direction to a certain extent, he has stayed true to his vision and just what has mattered most – being a messenger in the new era of Hip Hop, but because his bright and shiny start had people skyrocket the expectations for him to be an instant legend, that’s where a lot of people are quick to point out the flaws, and let’s be straight – he’s not on Nas level. Along with storytelling, Nas has a wicked usage of wordplay, but the knock on him has always been having a terrible selection with beats. Cole has produced his own work, and his beats have progressively got better over time. With his 3rd album now here, this is usually the point where you’ll start to figure out who the artist is. Will they grow? Have they plateaued? Is this the lane that’ll be the same throughout? No one knows, but the fact that it came out of the blue, and people (including myself) pre-ordered it without any single, video or tracklist tells you what kind of fan base he has – a loyal one.


2014 Forest Hills Drive


Given everything that has happened this year, it’s been rough being a Black man. It’s rough damn near every year, but this year was the tipping point for where North America stands against African-Americans. There have been many protests and cries of outrage due to police brutality against unarmed Black men. J. Cole took the time out to pay tribute to Mike Brown with Be Free (which he performed beautifully on David Letterman), and even Kendrick Lamar dropped an inspirational piece of music with i. Our voices alone can shake the trees, but those on a high platform can help move mountains. It’s about having each other’s back and standing for what you believe in. Cole hasn’t been shy to talk about what he believes in, and on the Intro, he makes note of that early. What is the price of ‘freedom?’ What does it mean to truly be free?


“Free from pain, free from scars
Free to sing, free from bars
Free my dawgs, you’re free to go
Block gets hot, the streets is cold
Free to love, to each his own
Free from bills, free from pills
You roll it loud, the speakers blow
Life get hard, you ease your soul”


We all want to be free of something in life, but the clear definition is never something that can be found because freedom usually leads to the other F-word – Financial. Funny enough, the mantra that Cole has been living with lately has been ‘Fuck Money. Spread Love” and that’s something that I feel will catch on quickly (I mean, people still have to make money to live). It’s times like these that a positive message being enforced is necessary, as much as the trap music aggressiveness populates the majority. It’s a melodic start to the album and based on the way Be Free was, one could only assume that this would be a more consciously focused album as opposed to focusing on a commercial sound.


January 28th is Cole’s birthday, and with a little nod towards the man who brought him on the mainstream scene, Jay-Z (whom also used his Birthday December 4th as a track title on The Black Album) it was a cool touch, and the transition from the intro into the first song was smooth how the melody picked up on the beat. The song brought me back to Cole’s mixtape days because of the simple beat and straight lyrics. And with no features on the album, it was leaning towards that return of the authenticity from which he built his popularity to begin with. The emphasis on this song comes on the 2nd verse where he talks about the value of a Black’s man’s life. Being a Black man of the past 25 years, it’s phenomenal to me that unless you’re a movie star, athlete, or rapper (even if that), Black men still won’t be respected like the ‘good, and upstanding image’ that White people are supposed to represent which is thrown into the faces of the minorities as to who to ‘be like.’


“What’s the price for a black man life?
I check the toe tag, not one zero in sight
I turn the TV on, not one hero in sight
Unless he dribble or he fiddle with mics”


The lack of Black leaders is what’s been a constant argument as well, with the heroes and role models having to be athletes and artists that many black kids watched on TV and aspired to be like. It’s a new day, but still that connection with the fans can be scary because you’re putting your life on wax for the masses to consume, and so much that you might be in danger of losing your own identity. Cole brought this up on Born Sinner constantly.


“Don’t give ’em too much you
Don’t let ’em take control
It’s one thing you do
Don’t let ’em taint your soul”


It’s also not the first time that Cole has brought upon the idea that people don’t care about Black men unless you’re ballin’ or rappin’. On the hook for Kenny Lofton, it’s clear as day (to name an example).


“Pac on the mic in his prime
They only care ’bout a nigga when he writing a rhyme, boy
Kenny Lofton you feelin’ my pace?
They only care ’bout a nigga when he stealin’ the base
It’s like I’m Wilt the Stilt, I’m fucking them all
They only care ’bout a nigga when he dunkin’ the ball
And it breaks my heart
The world’s a stage, I’ll just play my part”


Cole also made his Control ‘response’ by stating that he was the God, and that he’s come to snatch the crowns off heads of his peers. Good spirited Hip Hop has been much needed and this track was a good beginning as to what the rest of the featureless album could bring.


There’s often a song on every album that you can’t get away from because it just sticks to you immediately and as much as you want to move forward with the album, you find yourself repeating it. That was the case for Wet Dreamz. The story of how most guys around 14-16 years old lost their virginities came from being buff and thinking that they were the man before they became the man. Dudes always lie when it comes to being confronted by women about sex, because in those days, to be a virgin was ‘uncool’ (we were 14; girls were idiots). It’s a good story that revealed what goes on in the thoughts of a young kid who sets himself for an ambitious venture that he’s only seen on adult pay-per-view or the Internet. As the conversations go on and the talks build up, there’s still a bit of uncertainty about what to expect because you don’t want to talk a big game then not perform your job – that’ll scar you. I was pretty much one of these stories, but I just knew how to hide it well when my time came. Sometimes you just know what to do, and it just happens. Unfortunately, my first time wasn’t…memorable, but I won’t get into that. It’s a story that a lot of people can connect with, and with the very 90s inspired beat behind it (that may go one of two ways with listeners) you really get the feel that it’s a back-to-the-basics album that’ll resonate more with the diehard fans.


Cole isn’t used to going outside of his Dreamville production staff (or himself, for that matter), so when outside producers come in to do work, it’s not commonly heard, and it’s good to expose him to different beats to see how he can operate and possibly switch up the flows. The beat changes, the flow not so much, but it’s nothing that’s something to huff and puff about. ’03 Adolescence is the coming of age tale that pits Cole back in his teenage years (18 to be exact) and just what goes through the head of a teenager at that point, especially going off to college. It’s about him trying to discover just who he is as a person while battling with falling for a girl and surviving in a big city where he feels so small (which is hard, because he’s tall – 6 foot forever).


“I wish I won’t so shy, I wish I was a bit more fly
I wish that I, could tell her how I really feel inside
That I’m the perfect nigga for her, but then maybe that’s a lie
She like a certain type of nigga, and it’s clear I’m not that guy
Ball player, star player, I’m just watchin’ from the side
On the bench, cause my lack of confidence won’t let me fly”


The indecisive and confidence lacking persona that Cole displayed at 18 is pretty much how I felt at 18, because at that point you point out your flaws and those insecurities can hold you back from your potential flourish (I was just weird as it was, so maybe you won’t relate). From the experiences that he went through to having others show him that he had a gift to explore on, it was clearly a time in his life that was important, especially in the 2nd verse when his friend told him of his importance when Cole wanted to consider selling drugs.


“He told me, “Nigga you know how you sound right now?
If you wasn’t my mans, I would think that you a clown right now
Listen, you everything I wanna be that’s why I fucks with you
So how you looking up to me, when I look up to you
You bout to go get a degree, I’ma be stuck with two choices
Either graduate to weight or selling number two
For what? A hundred bucks or two a week?
Do you think that you would know what to do if you was me?
I got, four brothers, one mother that don’t love us
If they ain’t want us why the fuck they never wore rubbers?”


A lot of people don’t understand that the realities that many people face when they have to choose between pursuing their dreams, and having nothing but the streets to help feed themselves and their families, because they don’t have the ideal situations to just care for themselves. I was also told words like this by friends of mine who wanted to keep me on the good path because they saw something in me to go forward (being the first one out of a group of friends to go to college, was a big deal). There’s more to life than selling drugs or gang banging, and for many, that’s the life they know. So when you’re told that you’re more than that by your friends doing the bad things they don’t want you to do, you’ll pay attention. That’s what I got out of it, and thankfully, that friend told Cole to keep on his positive focus to not turn away from potentially throwing his life away. If only we could encourage more youth to have that same motivation.


Bangers. Hard knocking tracks. J. Cole hasn’t had a lot of those because he’s not that particular type to make something that’ll knock heavily in the club. A Tale of 2 Citiez might change that because it’s truly a banger and a track that knocks something vicious. Fayetteville, North Carolina is a small town but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its complications that big cities face. Taking after the classic book of the same (altered) title of Charles Dickens’ book, it was definitely ‘the best of times and the worst of times’ for Mr. Cole as he goes through instances in New York and his hometown. It gets aggressive and it’s one of those tracks where you have to throw on the ‘Bass Booster’ EQ in your car, or on your iPod to get that bass (it’s literally all about that bass – no treble). It’s the hook that gets it rowdy, and if you say to yourself out loud that a J. Cole song can go hard in the club, you have to stop and think about that, because you really haven’t said that before. I mean, Power Trip, sure, but not like this. With that Drake-ish flow in his verses, it’s definitely one that will (if it hasn’t already) vibe with the fans who were anticipating hearing something different from Cole for a change. I know I was happy about it, because I could get some ignorant flexing out of it. He’s still telling his story, but there’s more entertainment behind it. Aspirations of being rich are great, but getting there not so much when you have to endure the struggles of the lower income lifestyles. 50’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ isn’t just an album title, it’s a motto in life.


There’s controversy afoot, Watson! The general public that plays the role of Sherlock Holmes was very happy about Fire Squad because of one verse in this song that set off a debate about if he was in fact dissing certain artists because of their colours. He essentially said the same thing on Crooked Smile when he asked if he would sell more if he was the same colour as Eminem or Adele. The bars that he laid down were more intense and history driven, as he states that history shows that white people have taken over everything that Black people touch. White people can argue all that they want, but it’s a fact that they take over, commercialize and gentrify genres that were originally Black. What he was saying was absolute truth, and there’s no way around it.


“History repeats itself and that’s just how it goes
Same way that these rappers always bite each others flows
Same thing that my nigga Elvis did with Rock n Roll
Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and then Macklemore
While silly niggas argue over who gon’ snatch the crown
Look around, my nigga, white people have snatched the sound
This year I’ll prolly go to the awards dappered down
Watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile”


Because names were dropped, people took and ran with the fact that it came off as a diss (The Control Effect), when really he was acknowledging the fact that White people have come to be bigger people in Hip Hop because they’re the ones who actually sell – not because they’re better (although Eminem is the exception, because he’s better than a good majority of his Black peers). I won’t lie, I wish that Cole didn’t add, “I’m just playin’” at the end of that, because it’s something that needs to be taken seriously (I’m sure people still will, regardless). I saw that people were criticizing Cole for pulling the race card, but again – it’s not a lie. This is a hard-hitting beat, for starters, and it gave me that similar feeling of satisfaction like when Born Sinner started off with Villuminati. This track progresses the album with Cole in a mid-adolescent stage in his life where the intensity has been built upon frustrations, and we all have that ‘angry’ stage where it’s just “fuck the world, don’t ask me for shit” to quote Method Man. It’s also a point in time where the album begins to shift into a more maturing state as things start to evolve from an adolescence to an adult frame of mind.


If you haven’t listened to Cole’s interviews with NPR or Angie Martinez (or both), you definitely need to take those in for more nuggets about the album that I might have left off (this review would go on for 20 pages, at that rate). One of the tidbits that I took away from the NPR interview was that Cole made the beat for St. Tropez and originally gave it to Kendrick Lamar before he had a moment on a plane where he had a song for it, and luckily, Kendrick was nice enough to give it back to him. Would have been very interesting to hear what Kendrick would have done to it, because he’s a great mind. However, J. Cole did the beat justice, as this was a calmer approach to the previous two songs – less aggressive, and more serene. It’s the point where he’s ascending in his career; venturing into a new realm of success. It’s definitely a track to get lost too, but it’s also the point where it doesn’t get happy for him because with the success, comes the burdens of past baggage that you don’t want to carry, plus the pressures of success (See: Let Nas Down for some additional reference). And segue into G.O.M.D as the additional track that has that significant bounce, but plays an ironic mock towards what’s ‘accepted’ in mainstream Hip Hop now (hence why before his 2nd verse, he says “this is the part that the thugs skip”). When you throw a beat with bounce with a catchy hook, no one really cares for lyrics, and I thought that was a nice touch to make yet another point in reference to his young career, when he stepped outside of his own artistic lane to venture somewhere that didn’t quite work out for him. From Hollywood problems outside of figuring out just who he is as a person, you have relationship issues (his inability to be a faithful guy), and then there’s the playful commentary about why the only rich black men you see have fame attached to them – like they can’t just be ‘regular rich’. Although there are insecurities that Cole faces, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t stroll with confidence as a rapper like he’s a doormat. After the first album, you might have said, “yeah, this guy ain’t it”, but I find that he’s progressed in terms of an artist and a person. Listen to the interviews, trust me.


No Role Modelz alternates often as my favourite song already, because I feel that it’s an important conversation to have about who the kids look up to these days. Myself, I want to be a role model for people because I came from an environment that didn’t see a lot of positivity. Surrounded by criminals and drug dealers in my neighbourhood, with Toronto Community Housing security officers and 43 Division Toronto Police always in the area. It’s the set up that doesn’t it make it desirable to look forward to anything except either ending up in jail or worse. How do you escape that? You turn to music and television to live vicariously through those who have something for themselves, but at the same time, we (kids born from about 85-93) did have TV shows to guide us as positive role models (Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince & Mr. Feeny/John Turner from Boy Meets World for myself – outside of my Mother & Grandparents).


“First things first rest in peace Uncle Phil
For real, you the only father that I ever knew
I get my bitch pregnant I’ma be a better you”


I dig the beat heavily, and I can only imagine that with proper speakers, it knocks hard. I won’t lie, I thought it was a beat that Boi-1da or Wondergurl made, because it had that similar style (Shout out to Phonix however). I also like the fact that Three 6 Mafia’s Don’t Save Her was used as the hook, because that’s honestly one of my favourite songs ever in terms of good, clean and wholesome ignorance to get jiggy to (who can deny the masterful footwork of Crunchy Black??).


“No role models and I’m here right now
No role models to speak of
Searchin’ through my memory, my memory
I couldn’t find one”


In all seriousness however, who are the role models these days when the Kim Kardashians of the world who are embraced for not doing much except being a famous girl’s best friend, Brandy’s baby brother’s girlfriend, and the whole world has witnessed you have sex? AND you’ve jumped in and out of relationships more than little Black girls playing double Dutch? What life is this? I have a little sister (Shoutout to Jada – I know she’s not reading this), and would I want her looking up to people like Nicki Minaj, Igloo Australia, or whoever is just a pop icon with nothing more than bundles of plastic and over-sexualized jargon to encourage her to be a good woman in life? Hell no. I have a lot of male cousins (all younger than me); would I want them to look up to criminals and rappers with no sense of positive messages to let them know that they can be more than a rapper or athlete? Not likely, but that doesn’t mean they can’t listen to them. The power of persuasion is more than just what you listen to, but it’s also about the outside influences telling someone that this small box of opportunity is all that you’ll be able to do in life. That’s wrong.


“I want a real love, dark skinned Aunt Viv love
That Jada and that Will love
That leave a toothbrush at your crib love
And you ain’t gotta wonder whether that’s your kid love
Nigga I don’t want no bitch from reality shows
Out of touch with reality hoes
Out in Hollywood bringin’ back 5 or 6 hoes
Fuck em’ then we kick em’ to the door”


Outside of just career or life wise, relationships are being drowned out like when someone puts too much milk in macaroni and cheese – looking like Cream of Mushroom soup. It’s too much to witness divorce, divorce, and more divorce. Witnessing a marriage like my grandparents’ inspired me to want to be married. When shows like Love & Hip Hop or whatever celebrities are portrayed on Tumblr or Instagram as the examples of what love is, the message can get lost. Materialism isn’t concrete substance, and role models are there to fill that void. J. Cole is an example of an artist that I would definitely have looked up to as a kid because of how he relates to the everyday human being. Kendrick is the same way, and Pre-Thank Me Later Drake had that same effect (I’m just naming examples). The emphasis that Cole made in his NPR interview was that they’re aren’t enough of us’ trying to be that change in what people see in society. Cole has been out in Ferguson and has been marching in the streets to support Eric Garner. He’s someone that shouldn’t be constantly ridiculed for sometimes having weak bars (every rapper has weak bars at some point – we all heard most tracks on Blueprint 2, 3, and Magna Carta Holy Grail – and that’s Jay Z). He’s a voice that’s necessary and his intention wasn’t that he was trying to be a voice – it just happened to be that way, and it’s great that people have gravitated towards the fact that he’s about representing not only for himself, but for the people he wants to touch and make some kind of a difference for. Life has definitely changed in 15-20 years, and the fact that the negative influences outweigh the positive; it’s time for a change. Perhaps he’s just one enforcer of that to happen.


No word of a lie, after about 3 listens to Hello, I couldn’t do it. I definitely am not a fan of the song, although I do get the message wrapped around it about reflecting on a ‘what-could-have-been’, and I get the frustrations about that, because I’ve been there. I just don’t like the song.


“Don’t just sit back, bitch get on it
Time fly by way too quick don’t it
Reflection bring regrets don’t it
Rejection makes you defensive
So you protect your pride with your reflexes
But life is a game with no reset on the end”


Relationships are not the place where the word ‘luck’ surfaces, because it’s just always been a downward spiral. However, there are valuable lessons to learn when it comes to self-growth before hopping into one (unless you’re with someone that can help you and themselves grow as people, together – that’s beautiful). It’s something that I’ve definitely looked in the mirror about plenty of times, and as the days & years pass, it’s only a matter of time before something opens up and it feels right to commit. A lot of people are scared to commit (more people scared of being denied) and with the increasingly annoying ‘requirements’ involved before someone gets into a relationship, you see why there are so many single people roaming around with no bright outlooks in their future. To quote Marcellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction, “that’s Pride fucking with you – fuck Pride. It only hurts.”


I have a friend that I think I’m pretty fortunate to call a friend. He’s an artist who actually met J. Cole recently, and the first time I heard him, I swear to you I thought it was a miniaturized clone of him. John River was the first person to come to mind when I heard Apparently, because of the sound and the sing-rap style that John also embraces (it’s the rasp of the vocals). I respect Cole’s music because he keeps it honest – that’s all it’s about. Being yourself, being honest, and not having to put on a front just to appease the masses. I personally don’t care how many bricks you sold or how much money you have. How’s that helping me? I’ll give you a hint – it’s not. He’s not one to run away from his flaws, especially since at this rate of the album, he’s come to deal with the fact that he hasn’t been the best human being in terms of having relationships with the people who mean the most to him. Also he provides some background history about the house he grew up in and how it affected his mother, as he watched helplessly from the sidelines (you saw what I did). I feel this way about my family, because I’m really neglectful (especially of my Grandfather – I don’t know why either) but I’m aiming to change my ways. I love the hook – I could sing it out in the streets at the top of my lungs for no reason. It just feels good. That’s what’s missing – feel good music. I don’t want a simp anthem or something that’ll make me bitter and full of scorn. Give me something that feels good, damn it. This is one of those things.


Speaking of positive vibes and feeling good, Love Yourz is one of the best songs, I feel, that J. Cole has done in his career (he’s done quite a few). Kendrick dropped i, and this is Cole’s version of telling people to love their own lives instead of trying to match up and compare someone else’s successes to theirs. There’s always going to be something better in life, but the importance is to love and value what you have in your life and not try to keep up with someone else’s. I love the simplicity in those words.


“I hope one day you hear me
Always gon’ be a bigger house somewhere, but nigga feel me
Long as the people in that motherfucker love you dearly
Always gon’ be a whip that’s better than the one you got
Always gon’ be some clothes that’s fresher than the ones you rock
Always gon’ be a bitch that’s badder out there on the tours
But you ain’t never gon’ be happy till you love yours”


There are a lot of things that people find can be the ultimate happiness, but Money is usually the one that people would give you as the first answer. Money is important, but I don’t think that it’s the defining thing to attain happiness. Being broke sucks, but some people are content living a life that isn’t full of riches because that isn’t them. They embrace the lifestyles and it’s what works for them. Others have different outlooks, but it’s always and only about what makes you happy in life.


“I grew up in the city and though some times we had less
Compared to some of my niggas down the block man we were blessed
And life can’t be no fairytale, no once upon a time
But I be God damned if a nigga don’t be tryin’”


At this stage of the album, it’s where Cole’s maturity flourishes. He has realized just what’s important to his life, and that’s being happy and loving. Love is the emphasis of 2014, given what has happened in a series of unfortunate events towards Black people, specifically Black Men. It’s a genuine gesture from a man that isn’t too high in his head to understand that he’s a human being like us: goes to sleep, drinks water, eats food, walks on two feet.


“No such thing as a life that’s better than yours”


No features, no singles, no promo, no problem. This album starts and ends with a purpose, and where a lot of people had expectations of something grand, for 1. No one even knew about the album until 3 weeks before its release, and 2. The phrase I learned in high school that has stuck to me for 10 years – Keep It Simple, Stupid. That’s what this album is – simple. The messages are not complex enough to understand (J. Cole fans need to stop with this ‘if you don’t like him, you’re not intelligent enough’ shit), and the beats aren’t this whirlwind of haymakers that are supposed to be club bangers – he’s never been that guy, so I don’t know why people had those expectations as well. I liked Born Sinner because from start to finish, there was a revolving concept that was clear and concise. For us people who love to attack music in 72 hours and think that we get the whole thing, that’s where messages get lost and the purpose of the music gets translated worse than Broken Telephone. This album does have a concept behind it, because Cole takes us back to his home, back to where it all started for him as a rapper, and through that time, it’s a constant progression of him evolving as a man. That’s part of the maturation process of any artist, and some rappers can’t even do that. They refuse to be honest with themselves. Note To Self sums up the theme of the album in one word – Love.


“I’ve got a feeling that there’s somethin’ more
Something that holds us together
The strangest feeling but I can’t be sure
Something that’s old as forever


I like the fact that he went with the Kanye West Last Call inspired ending, but rather it being him telling a story of his come up, it was just him thanking people like the ending of movie credits (as he pointed out). I listened to the whole thing about twice, and then I had to chop it down. You get the point the first couple of times, but I loved the melodic gospel-esque hymn atmosphere around it. I was here for that, and it just put the stamp on what I thought of it to be a great album. It was out-of-the-blue, but the delivery was beyond what I could have imagined it to be. I really didn’t know what to look forward to. Home is something that a lot of people hold dear to their hearts. I know for a fact that no matter where I end up or how many times I move, 3847 Lawrence Avenue East will never leave me (that’s my home – my source of inspiration). I connected with this album, because I felt like I was 14-15 years old again going through struggles of girls, getting a job, and truly figuring out just who I am as a person. I took me a while, but I figured it out soon enough. This album is what I felt when I heard Section.80 or just recently, Cilvia Demo. It puts you in that growth stage of the artist, and the honesty surrounding it? You find that appreciation that down the road you’ll look back and say that you were glad that you were around when J. Cole was making music like this – who knows if it’ll remain the same 5, 10, or 15 years from now. Hip Hop is ever changing and evolving. Out of all the ruckus and commotion that has been stirring the metaphorical pot of madness, I’m glad that an album like this came around to slow things down and emphasize what’s really important in life – Love. Self love. Love of others, as well. There’s not enough people bold enough to tell people that it’s okay to love yourself. It shouldn’t even be an issue, but that’s the world we live in. My respect of J. Cole heightened this year; looking at all that he’s done, I don’t know how you can’t. This is a phenomenal album, and it’s worth your time and thought (and money). But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review


That’s My Word & It STiXX


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