J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only – The STiXXclusive Review

Jermaine Cole AKA Mr. Platinum With No Features, is an artist that isn’t hard to define although the majority of his fan stan base will tell you that you need a Masters degree in English and certified credits to prove you’re knowledgeable of fully comprehending his grotesque and mind-numbing lyrics buried in chasms of complexity and mummified in metaphors. I’m not the first to tell you this isn’t so, but that also doesn’t mean that I can’t repeat it – it isn’t so. It never was so, and for the love of God, let’s stop trying to make this a thing. Being a Hip Hop fan, period requires a certain level of intellect if that’s what you’re searching for, because there are so many layers buried in poetic rhyme & variable English that requires the brain to, you know, actually work. So please, abeg, stop this nonsense, because it’s harder for the rest of the fans to actually be reasonable instead of being pigeonholed into this clusterfuck of nimrods that make it their lives’ purpose to spread fallacies in the name of J. Cole, and that isn’t fair. And adding to that unfairness, it’s just one of the reasons why people who once liked him, truly stopped giving a damn about him, because he continually proves those theories wrong; he’s not hard to understand folks, I promise. But that’s really not the reason why this piece of writing exists today. I’m here to analyze another project that has no features, which also like 2014 Forest Hills Drive, was announced out of the blue, and again reaches out and asks, “what’s Cole looking for?”

            With the preceding album, as introspective as it was, it somewhat continued the trend of Cole in this new age where he was trying to find himself as he proclaimed on Born Sinner. He thought that he was lost, not only musically, but also personally, and it’s as though a new person had stepped in place of whom he used to be to usher in a new mentality to carry onwards with his musical acumen. That difference? He really just stopped giving a fuck, and that’s why we have the music we have today that doesn’t have that sound like he’s searching for a hit. It’s straight from the heart & soul, and he’s made that pretty evident through his lack of social media presence, his tour, his eagerness to just talk to everyday human beings, and honestly, I’m glad he chose that path. People may see it as a façade, but I don’t think everything is a front, and neither should everyday people. I get it, you have to be mindful and wary of those whole claim to be false prophets and deceiving to the eyes’ glance, but in the case of whole Cole is, I don’t think it’s that deep.

There are a couple of theories that I had for this album as I listened to it almost every other day from its release, and there’s a mixture of depression, but yet some optimism that clashes and truly wonders if that division is where he’s currently at in this present day, or if it’s an earlier version of himself just coming to form because he wants to get those verses out as he stated on Blowin Smoke from the first Revenge of the Dreamers. 1st theory: Cole in this present state of mind is happily married and is a proud father to a baby girl, and that’s amazing. However, the reason why he plays to these scenes of Death, is because a lot of people are scared when it comes to having to face the realities of raising another life form – they fear something happening to them before they have a chance to truly do right by their offspring, or they fear failure that their children won’t amount to what the parents saw their full potential to be. But in that same breath, there’s optimism that everything will turn out to be fine and knowing that he’s not alone in this job to raise his daughter, it makes it that much fulfilling. Nothing puts that feeling into perspective than She’s Mine Pt. 1 & 2

“I’ve fallen in love for the first time
I wanna cry
And I ain’t even tryna fight it
Don’t wanna die
‘Cause now you’re here and I just wanna be
Right by your side”

I remember when I was a teenager and I wrote a heartfelt email that was intended for one of my parents; in the subject line, I wrote ‘FOR YOUR EYES ONLY,’ and that brings me to my 2nd theory where it steps away from the first person point of view and shows Cole as a narrator for those who want their stories read, listened to & heard, and he projects them to us because these are situations that people are going through in the present time, which people may find relation to. On the title track (all 8 minutes and 50 seconds of it), the striking similarity to Kendrick’s Sing About Me jumps right out at me because he’s sharing words from 3 different people dedicated to their daughters, and the 4th is himself talking to a friend’s daughter. There’s a special relationship when it comes to Mothers & Sons, and Fathers & Daughters. There are strong bonds that see desperation from the parents stretch far distances to provide for their children in whichever way possible. It gets really personal as the songs moves along, and the painful reality that people in lower income situations lose those pivotal relationships to death or the penal system sinks in. My theories may be off, but it’s what I noticed and thus ran with the idea that Cole fears that he’ll one day find himself writing a letter to his daughter with words of regret & pain that’ll paint him in a way where he meant well, but he wants to be well and be present in her life.

Cole may be 31 years old, but that doesn’t mean that he’s far and away from growing as a person. The knock on him was that he was telling stories that would still put him as a 20-something, but I imagine because he’s written so many songs or poems over the years, they still hold value to his current life, and on the inside, he’s just going through shit that still applies these years later (I guess this can count as a 3rd theory). But with a song like Foldin Clothes expressing his joy of being fully immersed in the ‘washed life’ that only so many of us can hope to achieve one day (settled down and happily adulting), to Déjà vu where he jumps back in time to be that young kid who plays his hand in dirty macking to get the girl that he truly deserves, he hops around various ideas and by the end of it, and through repetition of hearing the project in full, we’re still wondering what he’s going through. It’s as though it’s a continuing growth from the end of 2014FHD to this album where he’s trying to shed his younger self to grow into a wiser man. Ville Mentality proves that to me because he’s trying to disconnect from his old life while trying to embrace the new path life has presented him. That fear of detachment; not only of the physical, but also the mental. As we continue to get older, these are the issues we face, but with Cole, it’s as though there are always growing pains with him to the point where you begin, or have already started, to question or not he’s just broken and just needs everything around him to feel whole (if that’s even a possibility for him at this point).

Yeah, my intuition is telling me there’ll be better days
I sit in silence and find whenever I meditate
My fears alleviate, my tears evaporate
My faith don’t deviate, ideas don’t have a date
But see I’m growing and getting stronger with every breath
Bringing me closer to Heaven’s doors with every step
As we speak I’m at peace, no longer scared to die
Most niggas don’t believe in God and so they terrified
Change

What I’ve appreciated about being a fan of J. Cole’s music is that I don’t hold outrageous expectations for him to excel, because he’s comfortable being at a level where he can just tell stories, produce for himself, and that’s what’s going to remain consistent. Now, in terms of where this album sits for me in his catalogue, it’s a lesser extension of 2014FHD, and certainly isn’t as dynamic as Born Sinner, but there’s a theme and he sticks to it. He’s still trying to escape a life he once knew, to really enter a world unknown, which seems farfetched because he’s been pretty successful for a long time, but in that same breath, he is from a small town in the South, and they’re not all too fond of exploring beyond their borders if they don’t have to. However, with Cole, I’d think that this would be a fine transition for him – turns out that it’s not, and it’s deeper than rap. I don’t know how much longer Cole’s career is going to last, but if we are indeed in the final stretch of his time (musically), then there’s much to appreciate, especially this intimate (and surprisingly short) piece that he decided on dropping on us on short notice. It’ll float around in my rotation and I definitely recommend the listen to others, but for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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