It’s been a long time coming for rapper Jermaine Cole from Fayetteville, North Carolina.
After moving to New York City, attending St. John’s University on an academic scholarship and graduating with honors, he has released several mixtapes between 2007 and this album release, including one entitled The Warm Up, which Jay-Z got his hands on. After hearing the mixtape (and specifically a song called “Lights Please,” featured on this album), Jay-Z officially signed J. Cole as the first artist to his newly formed label Rocnation.
From there on out, the anticipation for J. Cole’s debut album has been building, even being called by some as the “savior of hip-hop.” J. Cole’s buzz has been skyrocketing to the top of the hip-hop world recently, even reaching into the ever-elusive mainstream audience. But did he stay true to the music that got him to this point and deliver the greatness that fans are expecting?
Simply put, yes.
J. Cole opens the album with himself telling his friends the story about the day he got signed, followed by a couple of bars that lead into the first real song on the album. “Dollar and a Dream III” is a follow-up to parts I and II off of his previous mixtapes, The Come Up and The Warm Up, respectively, which will satisfy long-time fans.
The difference between this song and its predecessors, however, lies in a much bigger and more epic sound, but Cole’s flow and deep lyricism shine still through (“Life at the bottom, nobody but God got em/They say he wouldn’t leave me, yet I’m fallin’ like it’s Autumn”). Easily one of the best welcome-to-the-album songs I’ve ever heard.
Following the struggle-orientated track, J. Cole lightens the mood on his second official single, “Can’t Get Enough.” Quite simply, it’s about a girl he, well, can’t get enough of. The beat is a great mix between “chill” and “party,” and Trigga Trey helps bring it all together on the hook.
Cole’s clever lyrics and confident delivery are what make the song work, with lines like “Won’t brag, but the boy been blessed, man/Let you play with the stick, Ovechkin.” Somewhat new territory for Cole getting a Trey Songz feature, but this is a really catchy track that could possibly make some noise on radio soon.
Another great song on this album is “In The Morning,” originally released on the mixtape Friday Night Lights. It features J. Cole and Young Money’s Drake seducing their female friends.
Once you see the combination of J. Cole and Drake on the same track, you already know it’s going to be a hit. Cole kills his two verses (“Baby you summertime fine/I let you get on top, I be the underline, I’m/Tryna get beside you like the number 9, dime”), and Drake does just as well with his coarse-sounding vocals on the second verse. This song is strong all across the board. Over the piano-laced beat, this track easily lives up to the hype this collaboration brings.
Other standout tracks from the album include “Mr. Nice Watch,” a hip-hop/dub-step styled song that has J. Cole and his mentor Jay-Z sharing verses on the same song, and “Work Out,” which samples Kanye West’s “The New Workout Plan.” The song rumored to be the next single from the album, “Nobody’s Perfect,” has a sick beat produced by Cole himself and a nice guest feature from Missy Elliott singing on the hook.
J. Cole has truly created an album that suits every kind of hip-hop fan out there. Touching on topics from abortion to women to partying to just trying to make it, Cole has done everything to make sure his old fans are satisfied and his new fans are here to stay.
In addition, he produced nearly every song on this album and takes almost all the songwriting credit as well. His unique ability to produce his own beats that compliment his rapping perfectly is what makes him even more of a talent. If you are looking for a nearly flawless album that displays one major contributor to the very bright future of hip-hop, then look no further.