That’s right, I bit the bullet and gave J. Cole’s new album the full 5.0 stars because it is well-deserving.
Each of J. Cole’s previous three albums have gone platinum, and his latest, 4 Your Eyez Only, is headed in the same direction. Released on December 9th, 4 Your Eyez Only features J. Cole and J. Cole alone playing by his own rules and giving us a solo-masterpiece once again.
The German-born, North Carolina-raised rapper was the first artist to be signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label after standing outside Jay’s office for days hoping to pass him a demo tape. Since signing with the label in 2010, Jermaine Cole has gone on to become one of the most successful rappers of the decade.
4 Your Eyez Only is 10 songs and 44 minutes worth of the storytelling rap that J. Cole does so well. This album is simplistic yet raw, emotional but calming. The tracks touch on themes like uncomplicated love, sociopolitical resentment, personal growth, and anxiety for the future in a masterful and lyrical way. He takes aim at police brutality, mass incarceration, and toxic masculinity all while giving us the smooth J. Cole sound that we all love so much.
Here’s my take on a few highlights from the album.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls”: The opener for the album sets a melancholy tone, as it’s an introspective reflection on life, death, and legacy that’s stripped-down and lyrically-focused.
Favorite lyric: “Bells getting louder, ain’t nowhere to hide/ Got nowhere to go, put away my pride”
“Immortal”: This track keeps with the narrative of a black man’s life in America. This time, it’s from the perspective of youth, full of rhetorical questions about getting caught up with drugs and dealing with death from a young age, poignantly memorializing all those who have been lost to gun violence.
Favorite lyric: “Now I was barely seventeen with a pocket full of hope / Screamin “dollar and a dream”with my closet lookin’ broke”
“Déjà Vu”: This is one of my favorites from the album. J. Cole departs from his vision of tensions that plague the black community for a 4 and half minute conversation in his head with a girl he wants who has another man.
Favorite lyric: “On a scale from one to ten that girl’s a hundred and I want it”
“Change”: This song transports the listener to the shootout that killed J. Cole’s dear friend, James McMillan Jr., at the age of 22. J. Cole raps about the guilt he feels over McMillan’s death, as he ran home instead of staying with his friend.
Favorite lyric: “But see I’m growing and getting stronger with every breath / Bringing me closer to Heaven’s doors with every step”
“Foldin Clothes”: Another of my favorite tracks, this is easily the album’s most exuberant song. J. Cole penned this track when his wife was nine months’ pregnant with their daughter, and Cole raps about wanting to make life easier for her by folding clothes.
Favorite lyric: “Raisin Bran in my bowl with some bananas and some almond milk / I’d never thought I’d see the day I’m drinking almond milk”
“4 Your Eyez Only”: The final track on this exceptional album, this song serves as a message to J. Cole’s newborn daughter, as he recounts the life story of a close friend who fell into the temptations of the world, and his own attempts to stay on the path to righteousness.
Favorite lyric: “I’m living fast, but not fast enough / Cause karma keeps on catching up to me / And if my past becomes the death of me / I hope you understand – for your eyes only”
This album has been my go-to jam since it was released, and it becomes more meaningful and real with every listen. The narrative J. Cole lays out draws you in and keeps you engaged and emotionally invested in the outcome of his story. Give it a listen – you won’t regret it.
Photo taken from J. Cole’s facebook page.