J. Cole gives listeners a sneak preview
With the exception of several collaborations with rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Game, it has been a while since we've heard new work from J. Cole. Just last week, however, he dropped a five-song compilation for fans, made especially for those who have been awaiting his second studio album. With the five-song mini-mixtape came a corresponding thank-you note from the artist, instructing listeners to "vibe out to these songs in their raw form, no polish... just a lot of my soul." The purpose, as explained by J. Cole, is to bridge the gap between his last album (Cole World: The Sideline Story) from 2011 and his upcoming sophomore EP, which has seen more than several postponements, by releasing songs that did not quite make the cut.
Describing the compilation as "smooth" is an understatement. Every single one of these tracks sounds like silk, lending attention to lyrical value, aesthetics and beats that draw you in from the start. There are no "fillers," no songs to skip. J. Cole is surpassing all expectations, and it is apparent that he's risen to the top in the rap game. The five-song collection is nothing short of a gift for anyone who has watched J. Cole's flow production, and lyrics continuously refine throughout the last two years.
The first track, "Can I Holla at Ya," is a reminiscent song set on a Latin-infused beat. As he looks back on a missed opportunity with a girl from his past, he curses himself for his lack of persistence. Distance is the barrier; "We go a couple years and don't even speak, but know it's love though." This spark is ongoing, as he reassures the girl: "Couldn't let them dirty your name, I got the utmost respect for you...came back home and had to check for you." He does not get overly sappy on us, though. J. Cole divulges thoughtful introspection that only occurs under his harder, tougher shell.
In "Crunch Time," dream-like, fuzzy beats lays the foundation for J. Coles retrospection. "I thank the Lord for this wonderful gift...looking for strength in this crunch time," he raps, referring to his career and the accompanying struggles. The song ultimately speaks to perseverance, however, eventually spitting out the deepest line of the song: "The only thing worse than death is a regret-filled coffin". The next three songs, "Rise Above", "Tears for ODB" and "Stay," are equally astounding.
Humility is a needle in a haystack in the hip-hop and rap world. J. Cole is one of the few who seems to hold it closely.
If a fresh mixtape were not enough, just a day later J. Cole dropped a Valentine's Day single: a song off of his next album, "Born Sinner." The intoxicating song, "Power Trip," features R&B singer Miguel and meshes the genre with rap. On their second collaboration, J. Cole and Miguel deliver hip-hop and R&B excellence with sex appeal. "She got me up all night...down and out with these love songs." In the hook, Miguel cries out, "Would you believe me if I said I'm in love...I want you to want me." They seem to be out of their element; a once-hook up has transformed into infatuation and feelings. Already bearing an unhealthy play-count in mine and others' iTunes libraries, "Power Trip" is comparable to crack for the slow-jam enthusiast. Congrats, J. Cole.
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