J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only – A Review

When I woke up this morning, trying to come to grips with the fact that I had to get out of bed and get ready for work, the song that popped into my head was J. Cole's "Neighbours".

I have no idea why, but this has been happening to me since I listened to his fourth studio album, 4 Your Eyez Only, on Friday, December 9. "Deja Vu" pops into my head every now and again and I just yell "Hey, put a finger in the sky if you wanna, n*gga!" as I'm driving. When I try to put said finger in the sky, but since I don't have a convertible and it's cold as fuck outside, I can't comply with the lyrics.

When I first gave the album a full listen, my first impression was "It's aight" (real talk: I fucking hated "Ville Mentality" at first). I thought it was a misfire and that Cole played himself for trying to hit high notes.

Two days later, that song pops into my head and I'm singing along … Even more off key than Cole.

This album, just like 2014 Forest Hills Drive, took some time to grow on me. But when it did, the songs I first dismissed became strong favorites and were on repeat on my Spotify playlist.

Needless to say that when Cole announced the release date of 4 Your Eyez Only, expectations were high. We hadn't really had new J. Cole music in the last two years. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is by far his best album to date given that it went double platinum (with no features).

The no features part of that achievement matters to me a lot less that the actual achievement.

J. Cole going double platinum is important because he's not a commercial rap artist that everyone knows about. His songs don't play on the radio as much as Drake or Kendrick Lamar records. 

So, rather than buying/listening to the album based on some random commercial hit, fans are actually listening to and appreciating the good music; music with substantial lyrics for the most part. 

With that in mind, fans were hungry for what Cole was going to deliver next. Once it came out, though, so did the reviews and fan reactions either praising or trashing the album.

One Complex article said that Cole's album was both "empathetic and condescending" by pointing out the rhymes where the author feel J. Cole lacks empathy for the black experience.  

Bruh, how? And if we're going to start criticizing rappers for their lack of empathy and condescension, let's get a pot of coffee going because we got hours and hours of criticizing to do. I'm not even worried about that article.

I just want good music that doesn't make me sound like half my brain cells are fried when I sing along to it. I like J. Cole because his lyrics are thought-provoking. I'm able to react to what he says and either relate to, identify with or try to understand what he's saying.

That's plenty to ask of a rap artist in 2016. I feel that we hold certain artists to different standards based on what we expect from them even when they're killing over half of their competition in the rap game.

There should be one standard. This "king and queens of the mediocre" shit needs to be put to rest. Cole's album is dope!

Anyway. Let's get to the highlights.

 

THE GOOD

Deja Vu

If you're familiar with Bryson Tiller's work, you've heard a similar beat on Tiller's Trapsoul on the song called "The Exchange". There's a bit bit of controversy surrounding the production of the beat since J.Cole's version appears to be more successful's than Tiller's version. Call me crazy, but didn't Charles Hamilton first remix this beat in 2008 on "Brooklyn Girls"? 

Anyway. This is one of my favorite songs on the album by far. I like the beat, I like the chorus and I like the lyrics. 

In this one Cole tells a story about showing interest in a girl who's taken. It's a great track and most people can identify with wanting to be with someone who's unavailable at least at some point in their lives.

 

Neighbors

"I guess my neighbors think I'm selling dope!"

This song has a grimy beat and Cole's rapid delivery is a perfect match for it. This song is about feeling alienated in the upper-middle-class world when all you've ever wanted was to leave the neighborhood you called home – as disenfranchised as it may have been.

 

Immortal

This song is for the 'hood, boy. I grew up with a handful of guys who wanted nothing more than to hold it down on the corner all day every day. I can just picture one of these dudes singing along with the chorus of this song, "Real n*ggas don't die, form on the block".

Good track. Nice way to set things off.

 

Change

When I first heard this song, it threw me off a bit. The upbeat tempo and catchy chorus made me think that it was a song that would carry the same type of positive message as "I Can" by Nas. However, as the song progressed, I realized that the song had a lot more depth than I initially anticipated. It's actually a call for change regarding the way Black people are treated and unfairly gunned down amongst other, bigger topics.

 

She's Mine Pt. 1 and Pt. 2

The best way to deliver a love song. It's a soft beat, but Cole's not singing like he's Trey Songz. The lyrics are mild and sort of romantic, but they're not cheesy.

In part 1, Cole's definitely talking about the girl he claims as his love. In part 2, the crying baby in the background helps us connect the dots and realize that the culmination of his love in part 1 created a child, which also creates a new type of love.  

 

Ville Mentality

Like I said earlier, I hated this track when I first heard it. However, I think there some deeper meaning to this song that I'm not getting.

If the rumor that this album was recorded from a point of view other than J. Cole's (he used the point of view of his slain friend) then I guess it makes a little more sense. It was hard for his friend to escape the neighborhood and the mind state that comes with, therefore, he fell victim to it and left his daughter and her mother to deal with the consequences of his absence.


 

THE BAD

Foldin' Clothes

It's not a bad song. It really isn't. However, I don't like the premise. 

I don't like the idea that folding clothes is "right" and makes women "feel good". I know that Cole's a smart guy and that folding clothes is a simple metaphor for being a better version of yourself and supporting your partner in whatever aspect you can. In some instances, that can actually mean folding clothes because nobody likes to do that boring shit. Alone.

I just know that simplistic (by simplistic, I mean dumb ass) dudes are going to think "I just need to fold clothes to make my girl happy!" Nah, homie. You're on the right path, but there's a lot more to it than that.

Listen to the song until the end.

It's still a very good song.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a dope album that should be in every 2016 Top 50 or Top 10. Yeah, I said it.

 

Written by Joe Renegade

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