J. Cole, Drake, and Wale are like the new holy trinity of hip-hop, all three being hyped and promoted each by another of hip-hops current heavyweights. Wale and Drake both dropped last year and Cole has been sitting on the shelf for a while, dropping highly respected mix tapes but his actual album release was much in doubt. With little fanfare compared to the others, September finally saw the release of Coleworld: the Sideline Story.
The album starts with "Dollar and a Dream III" where Cole goes in and does a lot of rapping, and while he doesn't suck, at the end you don't get anything other than general 'I'm gonna get money so my momma can retire' rap which has its place but doesn't make a statement off the bat for the album. "Lights Out" is about
dealing with a woman who is just trying to get into bed while Cole wants to deal with the real issues in his life. On "Sideline Story" Cole talks about being overlooked and slept on by everyone.
"Lost ones" is a pretty good song as Cole goes back and forth with a girl he has gotten pregnant about whether or not they should keep the baby and the issues surrounding that. Missy Elliott makes a surprise appearance on "Nobody's Perfect" which isn't about anything in particular at all, though the second verse is once again about getting it in with a woman. Meanwhile " Never Tell" is another confusing song where in the middle, Cole references his absentee father as a reason for cheating ways. Cole shows his arrogance on "Rise and Shine" where he gets aggressive talking to the haters. The same thing is basically the topic in "God's Gift".
"Breakdown" is the best song on the album and coincidently it's the last track, as his first verse best sums up all of the complaining throughout the album about his lack of a father and the second about his mother. "Can't Get Enough" with Trey Songz is about how Cole can put it down in the bedroom. I'd rather forget about the single "Mr. Nice Watch".
Look, J. Cole is a good example of why everyone who is capable of being a rapper shouldn't necessarily be a rapper. The album is solid but it is very boring and a lot of the attempts that an artist like Drake does at singing seem forced into this because that is what is popular right now, sort of like R. Kelly using auto tune. The problem with J.Cole is he never develops a compelling story, as he attempts too many times to play up the fatherless young man aspect. It feels like a case of me getting what I asked for because he takes the needing a daddy issue way too far. His best two songs are natural and subject matter that isn't forced in "Lost Ones" and "Breakdown". More of an example of this new generation of rappers with false angst and forced drama it reminds me of a ABC Family melodrama where at the end it's overly forced to be the perfect situation of doubt to success. Cole is a guy who should have finished school and could make a good executive somewhere instead he settles for being an average rapper who lacks the passion to truly be great.