Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Dudesday Tuesday: J. Cole
I can't remember the last time I bought a CD the day it came out, or even bought a CD period for that matter. But last Tuesday, soon as I got out of work I went out to pick up J Cole's Cole World album, and when the first place was sold out, I moved on to the next one until I got it. So I figured I had to write about it and seeing that he sold out, I'm clearly not alone, and it's not often that I like an artist that everyone else likes, especially when it comes to rap.
The main problem with rap today is that they're not very good at it, in fact most of them completely suck. What J Cole brings to the table is lyrical genius, something very rare in any form of music. Even on a lackluster beat, I'm forced to listen just to hear what he has to say, and several listens later I'll finally pick up on a metaphor or cleverly hidden euphemism I didn't catch before. Every line seems to have some sort of underlying meaning to it that could easily be dissected and and analyzed in an English classroom like the great poets we still study today. The only real difference being the subject matter.
J Cole is a rapper, so he talks about regular rapper things, but manages to throw in bits of knowledge mixed in with his own beliefs and topics rarely touched on in song form. In "Lost Ones" he argues with his girlfriend about getting an abortion, raising valid points for both sides, something most people are too scared to delve into in fear of alienating part of their audience. It's refreshing to hear someone speak his mind so freely and with such profound articulation. You can tell this guy is a college graduate and it separates him from the competition.
Another refreshing aspect of this album is the fact that when reading the credits, you see that the instruments are actually played by living breathing humans rather then being synthesized on some expensive keyboard. How many albums actually have to credit the saxophone and trumpet players? Throw in the fact that Cole produced most of the album himself and it makes him even more impressive. There are actually piano solos on here that are downright beautiful, instrumental segments of songs that are still captivating. A few of the beats fall short, especially in the middle of the album but his lyrics are always enough to keep me listening. With only two guest rappers dropping verses, it gives Cole the time he needs to shine which is a good thing because his guests were seriously outshined. Drake and Jay Z both sounded rather uninspired on their verses, despite being two of the biggest names in the game today.
Some not accustomed to the world of Hip Hop may not pick up on it but one thing I love about Cole's work is the fact that he does not dub over his vocals, which is basically when you record a second set of vocals on another track so it sounds like your vocals are doubled. It's common practice in every form of music, practically unavoidable yet Cole doesn't use it on this album. The effect it gives is that he's rapping it directly to you rather than showing you a recording he made, it sounds almost live and on top of that, it sounds like he freestyled it off the top of his head. It adds to the realness he's bringing back to Hip Hop. How many other artists are talking about repaying their Sallie Mae loans? Yet how many of us out here listening are actually doing it? It's amazing to listen to something relatable, especially in the often fictionalized world of rap music.
Although the album is not a classic, I highly recommend buying this one, you won't be disappointed. I haven't bought a rap album in over two years so you can take my word for it, J Cole is incredible. For the sake of Hip Hop, please give him a listen and maybe we can save this phenomenal artform that way too many rappers are destroying.
(my top 3 standout tracks; Dollar And A Dream III, Rise And Shine, God's Gift)