Monday, December 12, 2016

For Your Eyez Only, That new J. Cole

     J. Cole has released a new album in what seems to be a midst of new shit from your fave young/old rappers. Drizzy seems to have something on the way, CuDi will be releasing his project on the 16th, and Childish Gambino just released a new album. In his befitting style J. Cole's latest project has done impressive numbers while still disappointing a large number of listeners. He is one of the most notable contemporary rappers and is still referred to a "trash" or "Boring".

     Just a few days before releasing the album he premiered a documentary entitled "Eyez" available for streaming on Tidal. This film gives us a very discreet look into J. Coles process in creating this album. We see the certain tracks being created from scratch and the instrumentation going into them without even knowing what these tracks are. Based on the sounds and the lyrics we hear Cole recording, the 31 year old super-star is certainly staying very true to himself and who he has come to be as an artist. There does not seem to be anything particularly "New" forthcoming but the anticipation is still built. The film also features music videos for two new tracks "Everybody Dies" and "False Prophets". "False Prophets" received a lot of attention and even stirred some controversy for Cole's lyrics seemingly calling out and criticizing KanYe West as well as other mainstream rap artists.

     However neither "False Prophets" nor "Everybody Dies" are featured on this album, "For Your Eyez Only". An intimate story strung together as what seems to be a memoir-like love letter. Cole speaks on his own struggles with life and death, the plight of a Black man in America, Family, and ultimately love. We come to learn that one of Cole's closest friends was killed when he was only 22 years old, which implies that a lot of what Cole has had to say throughout the album may not be his own first person experiences. He is describing the world as how he has seen it but also telling the story of his late friend and the lifestyle he led. This however does not take away from or diminish Cole's narrative, if anything it supports it. Story-wise "For Your Eyez Only" is simple and easy to follow. Cole also describes love, the romantic kind, and we can easily assume he is describing his relationship with his wife, especially on the track "Foldin' Clothes". However it is not easy to understand who's eyez this project is for, only. At least not until the last track of the same title.

     Unfortunately, the album is not the most entertaining. Many are describing this project as boring and I agree. Standout tracks include "Immortal" on which Cole proclaims "Real niggas don't die" exhibiting what it means to have lost people close to him due to violence; and "Deja Vu" as it is the closest to being a club banger describing meeting a girl in the club and feeling as if it is love at first sight. Both of those tracks could possibly go mainstream. Lyrically the entire project is not the most impressive, Cole does not necessarily "Go there" nor does he present the hunger we would expect based on the bonus tracks featured in the documentary. Very basic bars paired with slow melodic tunes/beats offer listeners really decent background music, elevator music for the hip-hop head if you will. I appreciate Cole's story and his use of his platform to tell such a story, however this album does not put forward anything new or innovative artistically for J. Cole or in general.

     I believe Cole is now used a scapegoat for being "Trash" because he has yet to reach anyone's expectation of being this exceptional rapper with enough old school influence to make us feel the way Hip-Hop has always felt and also bring forth a Hip-Hop renaissance or a revolution. On top of that, it is not very easy to classify Cole as an artist. He's conscious by default as he speaks the truth on the state of the world and his own experiences over slower beats with real instrumentation however disappoints listeners with misogyny or not digging deep enough to evoke change. He's not like Kendrick, yet he's definitely not Drake. His albums always leave consumers wanting more.

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