Music Review: #4YourEyezOnly J. Cole Album

Fayetteville, North Carolina hip-hop artist J. Cole has returned with a brand new album titled "4 Your Eyes Only". We'll get straight to the point here. I'm not a huge fan of J. Cole but I like his music. I respect his artistry and activism and I believe he's one of the best in his generation of hip-hop artists. I found out about him in my freshman year of undergrad in the fall 2010 after I saw people on Twitter tweeting about his mixtape "Friday Night Lights". After checking it out, I was sold. Especially when I heard the remixed track "Best Friend", originally made by Missy Elliot and the late songstress Aaliyah. I had that joint on repeat, constantly. "Home for the Holidays""In The Morning", and "You Got It" are still some of my favorite tracks.

Fast forward to 2011 and Cole's debut album "Cole World: The Sideline Story" released. I was loving his first single "Can't Get Enough". The song was sampled from the Guinean orchestra Balla et ses Balladins' song "Paulette". It was refreshing, energetic, vibrant, with a video to match, all types of African diasporic realness. It proved that J. Cole, and hip-hop artists in general, could successfully and lyrically create mainstream, club bangers without going the dumbed down route we've been seeing lately (no excuses in my book). I think J. Cole puts out really good singles, they always have a message and he's an artist that massively appeals to women fans, and that works for him seeing that hip-hop is so male-dominated. "Nobody's Perfect", "Crooked Smile", "Work Out", and "Power Trip" were great singles and constantly received radio play. He's achieved the art of looking out for female fans, being socially conscious and making enjoyable music to match

I'm saying all of this to give credit where credit is due, and just to make it clear I genuinely like J. Cole and some of his music and I want him to win. So don't come 'round here with that hater talk, I give credit where it's due. Now, I haven't been feeling Cole's last few albums lately starting with "Born Sinner". For me, the production hasn't been on point, the flow and delivery in some of his songs come off as monotone, and it just doesn't move me overall. Of course, the lyrics are decent, but there's something very stagnant about his music that just doesn't personally move me.

With that said, I still gave Cole's fourth studio album "4 Your Eyez Only" a chance, but I got the same feeling I felt when I heard "Forest Hills Drives". The "False Prophets" video got people talking and excited for the album, but it didn't live up to the hype. To me, there hasn't been much progression and much to compare with either albums. I feel like a lot of the songs on "4YEO" were left over songs from "FHD". Hell, didn't "FHD" drop around this time in 2014? The production sounded similar and the format of the songs, content wise, were also very similar. Mellow songs, a love song, throw out a semi-crunk song ("GOMD" and "Neighbors"), a socially conscious track, and repeat cycle. I know a lot of fans and stans get upset when critics state that J. Cole's music is "boring", but this is many of us are getting at when we voice our dissatisfaction with Cole's latest music.

From production to song format to lyrical content, the music has gotten predictable, almost like Cole is in a musical comfort zone. It's very apparent J. Cole has a core fan base of college aged listeners, a specific style and theme he wishes to convey in his music, but from one artist to another, I would still like to see something new and different from him. Perhaps going back to square one and sampling international music since "Can't Get Enough" was a huge success, collaborating with R&B artists in reference to the energy behind "Nobody's Perfect", "Crooked Smile", and "Power Trip". and even finding new lyrical content. Let's say, something like Nas' "Rewind" for example? Despite what I wasn't feeling, I enjoyed the jazz influences on the album, such as in the song "Ville Mentality". I'm not a huge fan of the crooning trend that's been active in the hip-hop/rap scene as of lately, but I liked how he implemented that on "For Whom the Bell Tolls". My favorite songs so far are "Deja Vu"and "Neighbors". I'll be looking forward to possible music videos off this album and more of J. Cole's work in the future.

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