Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Album Review: J. Cole- Cole World: The Sideline Story

Hip Hop in 2011 has entered its new age this year.  Breakout artists, innovative methods of release, and even a surprising reemergence of the "music video."  Hip Hop in all respects is in a new era.  Artists like Odd Future's Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, BIG K.R.I.T., Mac Miller, Machine Gun Kelly, Fashawn, Emilio Rojas, and other artists have all stood under the spotlight, building mass fan bases with no label backing and little to no radio play.  Artists like Wiz Khalifa and Big Sean, finally grabbed the eye of mainstream audiences, setting new waves and trends in hip hop, taking the game by storm.  It seems everyday someone is promoting a new artist they just heard of that's on the rise.  In 2011, while Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and Drake dominate the radio and 106&Park, fans online and in the streets and campuses all across the country are backing their favorite new artists, pushing them into the spotlight.  Who need's label promotion when you got die hard fans to do it for you?  Filling up venues with no album out, demanding radio to play your songs, petitioning them even!  Its a new day, a refreshing feel in hip hop that we all feel in some way.  No artist has capitalized on this new age in hip hop more so...than J. Cole.

The journey to the album was a long and daunting one for J. Cole and his loyal fans.  Cole World: The Sideline Story, which is now available in all music stores, is pretty much a microcosm of everything Cole has gone through from his younger years til now.  In an age where fans matter more than ever, Cole has established one of the most loyal and dedicated fan bases on the game right now.  They are loyal to Cole because he brings a new feel to the game, a breath of fresh air.  There are no underground or mainstream fans when it comes to J. Cole, as he blurs those lines bringing in both audiences to a happy medium.  The same fans that love Work Out, are the same fans who remember Cole shouting "Straight from the Ville and I made it like a villain I'm hated" on Simba.  You can feel it at his shows, its truly something special AROUND him.  His honesty, and ability plus willingness to tell the stories of all those friends and fans who have no voice, have really connected him to hip hop fans in many aspects.

On to the review.  This album IS that story.  This album tells your story.  Whether you're the young hungry kid chasing your aspirations like Dolla And A Dream III, the young couple struggling to deal with unplanned parenthood and the option of abortion in Lost Ones, the light hearted spirit enjoying the success life has given you like in Mr. Nice Watch, the son angry at his absent father while still yearning for that connection like in Breakdown, or just the young college kid having a blast with your friends like in Can't Get Enough, Cole in some shape or form told YOUR story.  That's what makes Cole a special artist, and this a special album.  Other legendary artists have done what Cole is doing, like Pac and Nas for example.  Some people criticize Cole in that regard, that he isn't bringing anything new to the game.  But they never acknowledge how what he brings may have been done before, but no one is doing this now.  This album is far far far away from Carter IV, and even Watch The Throne, in the sense that Cole is down to earth, telling you his story and yours for the world to hear, in hopes that everyone may be able to connect not only to Jermaine, but to each other.  Songs like Sideline Story, with a beautiful beat and hook, telling the story of a nigga on the sidelines waiting for his chance.  We have all been there at some point.

But outside of that, lets look at this from a technical view.  As promised, J. Cole has made and contributed to a lot of this album's production.  While it's not flawless, it is exceptional to say the least.  In a time when more and more rappers are beginning to self-produce their own songs, Cole has mastered it and it shows on songs like BreakDown, God's Gift, and the heavily praised Rise and Shine.  That signature sound, with the piano keys flaring mixed in with soulful undertone, has made J. Cole's production one of the best in the game today. He adds heavy...HEAVY lyrics to these beats, making the album really tough to digest.  A lot of these tracks, like Dolla And A Dream III, Rise and Shine, Cole World, and God's Gift are heavy in both content and delivery.  Cole has a lot he has to get off his chest and he does, practically burning the mic down with a swirl of emotions.  People have complained that the album is a bit long winded, and I can agree to that.  That by no means hurt it imo, as his quality verses and harmonic melodies soften the listen.  Missy Elliot steals the show far as features go in Nobody's Perfect, giving us a heart warming hook with soulful vocals.  The vocals are so fresh in your ears, you don't even notice its Missy whose singing.  Cole has been slandered for his addition of In The Morning and Lights Please because they are older material, but both serve their purpose for the album.  In The Morning has yet to run its course, and many fans who are not already into Cole's music will jump at the sound of this tune.  Far as Lights Please, Cole has always said that he would add Lights Please onto the album, as it is a song that means more to him than we will understand.  Its the song that changed his life, the song that got him to where he is at today.  Think about it.  On the album we hear Lights Please, followed by the interlude of Cole taking about the day he got signed, followed by the reflective Sideline Story, only to be followed by Mr. Nice Watch...his celebration with his mentor.  Lights Please was where it started, Sideline Story was the journey, and Mr. Nice Watch is where Cole is at now.

I don't feel the need to bash you over the head with more of my thoughts.  I have so many in regards to this album.  People are ranting and raving over Cole right now.  We have people going out to their local Best Buy, FYE, Targets, etc., buying MULTIPLE copies of this album.  I woke up today, and my twitter was flooded with #ColeWorld tweets from people saying how they will buy the album today.  When I get on campus, I hear Cole World bumping in people's cars, I see people mouthing his lyrics, and its truly a special thing.  Its a new feeling in the air, we all feel it, and Cole is the catalyst for it all.  I'm not going to get into what I "expected" the album to be, or if is it's a "classic" or whose album is better.  That's something I don't feel I will ever care about when it comes to this album.  This day will be remember by me, and all Cole fans, as the day hip hop fans won.  Not underground fans, not mainstream fans, HIP HOP FANS won.  Doesn't matter how much Cole sells, he won as well.  He has given us so much quality music, and has everyone caring about hip hop.  We are collectively tuned into Cole World, and it is a beautiful thing.

I loved this album.  Where it will end up far as longevity?  Time will tell.  Right now, I haven't been able to stop listening since the leak.  I myself have two copies today,

 and I hope you will go out and buy this album as well.  Stay away from that "is it a classic?" bullshit, at least for today.  Sit back and enjoy the music for once.  Hip hop fans need to celebrate.  Cole fans need to celebrate.  Cole won!


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