BOOOOYYYY, WAS i WRONG….

Ok. A’ight. i was buggin’, i was buggin’. 4 Your Eyez Only is quite tight, actually.

On my current, just-now-as-i-write fourth full listen, i’m feeling like this album picked up right where 2014 Forest Hills Drive left off, sound-wise; steering into more focus on the use of the instruments. And, Cole used his voice well, and in various ways to project his messages way more often this time around. There’s flows on this shit that i’m just now hearing from Cole—and of course the familiar here & there; those who know, know—he might just be introducing us to newer things. A modern version of ‘Simba’ could be on the way—so, i’m more than happy if it’s what we’re getting from now on.

It’s all going to sound like a biased-flip-floppin’-back-to-being-a-fan-who-would-of-course-like-it take on the project, i know. But genuinely, i’ll be the first to admit the album is still far from perfect. However, for the simple fact that this is what Cole, his team, and a bunch of talented musicians could craft, in what i understand, to my knowledge, to be a short space of time (mainly over the summer, according to Elite), i give a bly and applaud the album for being what it is. There is room for improvement, much like his last album… but it really is what it is—a complete project where he’s said what he’s had to say, that, honestly can’t be faulted, since it’s just solely spoken from the heart.

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Nice to know that live instrumentation is back—in the forefront of hip-hop—and now that it is, hopefully it stays; because, to me, the incorporation of it seems really beneficial to the evolution of the music that’s to be put together in the future, and has already been proven to be, as shown in recent compositions (2015—present), and as i spoke on in my thoughts on Black America Again, Common’s twelfth studio album. This “trend”—which really shouldn’t be one, or as i shluldnt be referring to as one, albeit—is the best thing to happen in years, in my opinion; and i stand behind that statement, firmly.

Ari Lennox, you did your thing on “Change”—you star. Glad that Cole gave her the spotlight and let her subtly shine like that, contributing a beautiful light; a ray-of-sunshine for an additional to the song. The song hit me even harder, hearing “that boy was 22,” too—the age that i would turn a day later, following the album’s drop-date. And while on subject, i think that cut not only shows, but actually boasts Cole’s most musical progression the highest degree, and to date—like, really… Electric Lady Studios did you some good, ‘maine. This is also the best mixed-down album from Cole i’ve listened to. So, big up Juro “Mez” Davis. The studying of ‘the loudness war’ aided, complemented and catered to the quality of each second of the LP—so, thank goodness that Cole took heed to the sentiment. It made, again, for a great listening, and only seems to grow on me each in which i listen now, and the rapping over the instrumentals is so smooth, too. Respect to J for sticking to his word on Eyez; aware of his platform and not taking for granted that he has it, but may never again one day. There is no shit for the radio on this one. This ain’t nothin’ for the radio.

“This for the ones that listen to me on some faithful shit. i’m on some thankful shit.”

It’s crazy to think how and that i originally thought this album lacked direction on first listen. Been re-taught a lesson: never judge the music off of a first listen. The more i listen to this effort, i realize he’s finally departing from past sounds, but forever in embrace of past Cole, as much as he continues to move forward—i was silly to think this was the ‘same old’ Cole.

THIS IS THE PART THAT THE STANS SKIYUP!

The unfortunate part about 4YEO—in fact, perhaps thee most sad aspect of the LP—is “Déjà Vu.” Though i could argue it, i have no place to really say whether the track fit [in-with] the clear soundscape carried prominently within the space of the ten tracks. The obvious problem and elephant in the room that exists here—at least to my listening experience, though i’m sure plenty of people who know about TRAPSOUL can relate, would agree and be willing to openly back me up on this one—is that beat.

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The way in which “Swing My Way” was sampled—originally by Boi-1da & Vinylz, not Foreign Teck (no shade, just truth)—on track 3 of the LP (despite being the original and father, if you will, to the succeeding-but-first-leaked-and-heard-of, “Exchange” by Bryson Tiller), was so similar to the latter, that it automatically overshadowed Cole’s track. It’s almost like it wasn’t even given a chance… it had no chance—not one. As soon as the song starts and that beat drops. Damn. The vibe the album began with and would follow up after it was ruined for a moment (for my unliking, that is, anyway).

Guess i can bear the song, whether i select it to play, or if it comes on—it’s not a bad song! But au contraire, my nigga—just as @i_makebeats tweeted the same notion that i’m about to mention… i wish Cole, Boi-1da and Vinylz could have just cooked up another one, because it’s not like they aren’t more than capable of doing that (and probably even in their sleep, too—Cole, you’ll like this one)—even though Cole dropped that duuuttty Pac-esque hook on it (YO! and on “Immortal,” too, which, btw, i can’t wait to hear in the whip—same way as i couldn’t with “A Tale of 2 Citiez.”

The title track “4 Your Eyez Only” stands candidly reminiscent of “Sing About Me, i’m Dying of Thirst.” But also, next to the lyrical style i last remember receiving from Cole on a cut such as “Runaway” on Born Sinner, it reminded me of Nas. Now, the “J. Cole—Nas” comparisons been relentlessly thrown out over the years—it’s common knowledge, and Cole hasn’t exactly shied from or been non-vocal in stating his influences during his career so far; probably not anytime soon either (sans “False Prophets”)—but this time around, it couldn’t be more potent in how he channeled Esco; from the storytelling to the more minimalist beats, allowing the words more room to breathe and for the listeners’ ears to catch onto… i don’t think he’s really done this as consistently since Friday Night Lights, to where it was so noticeable that it was one of his focuses to devote himself to.

This all been said… i really would love to hear what was or is to be done with all those chords and riffs as heard in the documentary released [on TIDAL] by Dreamville, a week before the album. There’s gotta be a place for some of those joints, surely. Hope they find a home that’s accessible to the public… sorta like 2014 FHD, Fayetteville, NC—LOL.

Happy for the fact that i was able to and can now say i’ve gotten past the stupid critical stage of listening i was in on my first hearing of the album straight after i got back from a night out (maybe the clubbing did it to me—just maybe). So yeah—now i can just put the ting on shuffle, enjoy, and resume with learning all of the lyrics off-by-heart. State-the-obvious, why don’t i (, everybody, their Mom & Nan)? The switch (even if it is like a continuation sound wise, although a little more risky) from FHD to 4YEO, can be likened to GKMC to TPAB, i suppose—in the sense that [what K. Dot did with] TPAB might just have been easier on the ears—even though it wasn’t—purely because it was just that musically exquisite that it was hard for a fan of quality music to deny. Cole maybe doesn’t have that quite have that on lock and in his pock’ just yet—he lacks that. Has the ability to pull it out the bag, though—if he can focus on that aspect.

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But what i’m even more happy about… what’s really important here… is that i believe it’s now time, after much speculation, and now that Cole is moving more forward towards a sound where he could easily coexist with Kendrick [Lamar] on, bringing only what i could imagine to be ‘autiful, rewarding results. Oh, and even potential collaborations with the likes of Anderson .Paak (who you should know that i really admire the muzikále work of)—one that i’ve been silently hoping for—and The Internet (i mean, just listen to Steven Lacy’s background vocals AND bass guitar on “Foldin Clothes” (a.k.a. the “St. Tropes” of this joint)—that groove would make late ‘90s D’Angelo & Questlove? super proud with a smile on their faces. Passing with flying colours, mate. J. Cole on jazzy beats, is a fit. Don’t make me have seizures, dawg—please. Like i said, ELS done had that effect on heem. Erykah Badu’s magick was left there in the presence of the premises. Aura all up in deyair.

With 4 Your Eyez Only, Cole now joins the 2016 class of Best Grower LPs, sitting alongside [fellow inductees]: Atrocity Exhibition (Danny Brown), Blank Face LP (ScHoolboy Q), and The Healing Component (Mick Jenkins).

Don’t think Cole has yet fully nailed it, and still is to create that project that is fully focused and not missing a step in the direction towards delivering whatever story or theme that it may be. A lot left to do, but at the same time—not.  Hopefully not for long, at all. Will continue listening of course. Maybe this one was  just him getting it out of his system and next time he’ll get it right as a  whole—Lord Willing. Less weak spots and flaws. Would be a shame for him not to; and to see him walk away with the rest of so much talent not shared with the world, with all that he has to offer.

Still a Cole World 😈🌍😇

Album is available now on Amazon Music, Apple Music/iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify, and in stores (Best Buy, Target for US | HMV this Friday for UK, as far i know)—aouwlahdat.

// All photos captured by Anthony Supreme, and courtesy of anthony-supreme.tumblr.com

Day before my Birthday… again

So…

Once again, a brand new J. Cole album has been silently announced, and is upon us, only 8 days from now. Not a word uttered from Jermaine himself. Following yet another late wake up, i got the news earlier on this afternoon, via a message from a comrade of mine on WhatsApp, showing a screenshot from Instagram with a photo of the album cover for 4 Your Eyez Only featured in it.

Now, instantly, i thought: ‘There’s no way he’s dropping his album on 9th December again. Two years after 2014 Forest Hills Drive just seems too good to be true, to me.’ Honestly, i thought that we were being trolled (there was a tweet two days ago by somebody who hacked into ScHoolboy Q’s Twitter, saying that Cole & Kendrick [Lamar] were going to finally drop the joint LP — causing much speculation (for fans especially) yet again. Oh, and his writing looks very similar to whoever’s writing is on the cover for We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (A Tribe Called Quest’s actual last album).

Considering that:

· Cole, for a good three years+ now, has been using ‘z’ on the end of his title tracks (“Rich Niggaz,” “Niggaz Know,” “Lil’ Niggaz,” “Wet Dreams,” “A Tale of 2 Citiez,” “No Role Modelz,” “Love Yourz”), the titling for this LP didn’t really come as a surprise to me at all; being that he’s made it clear over the years that he is an avid ‘pac fan, it seems he’s definitely following in suit.

· i actually saw a tweet today, from @princess_simba (the girl who had Cole attend her graduation), who showed a picture of the letter Cole sent her before the grad’; with focus on the top part, where the words read were actually ‘4 Your Eyes Only’. So, is he going down even more of a cryptic path in how he approaches the releases of his work these days (his last LP also appeared out of nowhere, or “out the sky” — only through a banner, rather than a pre-order link, which shortly after also appeared)? Is this now just his standard procedure? But then, funnily enough (as i often say)… according to Billboard, apparently the iTunes pre-order link, that had mysteriously appeared, supposedly disappeared.

· With Cole’s last album featuring nobody, and it being based on achieving that ‘happiness’, i wonder just what direction he’ll be taking next, both with his content and musically; with it being his fourth LP now.

· Does this album have any ties to/anything to do with 2014 Forest Hills Drive, being that it was said to originally be a “double album” — and so, could this effort coincide with it, since it comes two years later on.

· How can he actually top his last LP? Does he wish to? Is this next album just going to be another splodge of the paint on his pallet to be added to the canvas existing? Will we be introduced to new cadences? Does the usual subject matter die, as he progresses to something new, or does he remain within the same realm he’s been in, carrying very similar & familiar themes that we’ve grown to know by now; almost 10 years really into this ‘game’? Will Cole be departing from his past sounds, and taking an extreme stride into a more risky, experimental route; dabbling in new sonics? Production has been a big thing many have spoken on when it’s come to announcement of every Cole album [post Sideline Story] that’s been due. If there was one thing Cole was notorious for, prior to going “double platinum with no features,” it’s producing the majority of his own projects.

After Born Sinner (which entailed production handled by Jake One, Syience, Elite on Co-, and Jermaine himself), Cole began to let up on his artistic integrity and ego, allowing room for more range on the sound to invade his space and bodies of work. Pop & Oak, Vinylz, Cardiak, !llmind, Phonix, Ron Gilmore (assisting) all took part and had a hand in crafting FHD. This, of course, brings me to ponder on the obvious: who has produced for this LP? Some example of producers i’d have liked Cole to work with, are: Organized Noize, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Q-Tip, DJ Dahi (who provided the beat for “No Role Modelz”), Hit-Boy, Flying Lotus, Timberland, Mike Dean, & Madlib, just to keep the list short and to minimal. We know Cole can produce heat, as he’s proven he is more than capable… But, please; more variety? Way less limitations. We know what you can do on beats, ‘maine… or do you have more in store for us that we’re not hip to, nor [are] we even ready for. One thing that i am all for, though, is the album having  10/11 tracks only, which should mean and make for a focused effort. Super glad he’s decided to cut down the amount. This, i think, could be his most musical piece, where it’s focused on just the listening, rather than the visuals; and is potent enough in words that it will “paint a picture that’s vivid enough to kill blindness. Carolina’s Finest,” correct? But then again, i can’t help but think we may be in for a visual-oriented album (look at the album cover, for instance; the two colour patches, and just a simple nuance such as it depicting him looking at something; we can’t see his face… is he trying to take us through what he sees? maybe i’m looking a little too deep into it — but i don’t think it’s something to ignore; i very much doubt so, in fact. like [Quentin] Tarrantino, he leaves room for thought… but fills in the gaps. Cole does things with a purpose. Perhaps we should be closely paying attention to the details and concentrating on what he says. It’s nothing new if he really has something to say, but if so, then — what could it be?).

· Though the competition is nada to him, with the position that he’s gained; the seat he’s sitting on (even if there are “no more kings”), and other albums set to release,  can he blow others out of the water? Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love and Smoke DZA x Pete Rock’s Don’t Smoke Rock are both out tomorrow. KiD CuDi’s Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is out two weeks from tomorrow. Post Malone’s Stoney,  too, drops on the 9th. And then, Drake’s More Life is due any time this month now. Is he looking to crush the competition before and following him? It’s not exactly like 2016 has been a weak year for music, musically (npi). Is Cole trying to scoop a strong contending spot for AOTY at the last minute? Plus, it’s not even like he has to put an album out and is doing so for the sake of it.

It all gives me nothing but so many questions (like above). No doubts so much. It’s more so my concern for his legacy as an artist. Is it too soon? Does he feel the pressure to drop (even though i’m sure he knows he doesn’t need to)? Guess we’ll find out this time next week. Though my points may sound critical, i speak only as a fan who wants the best — so, don’t you ever get it twisted.

To say that i was thinking suicidally early this morning, to now come to the fact —as i (again) predicted [either the following, or that him & K. Dot actually would release the ting — he’s dropping an album, shows me that there is hope. my prayers were answered yet again. Thank you once again, Cole, for blessing me the day before my birthday. First it was coming to Birmingham to perform as part of tour What Dreams May Come Tour. Then it was 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Revenge of the Dreamers II (which was on the 8th, so two days before — but still!). And then lastly — this. It’s reminded me that there’s always hope, and always blessings whenever i least expect them. WDMC, right? Good thing i wore my T-shirt from the tour, then (edit note, 02:33—34 a.m. | 02/12/2016: wearing it again right now — who knows what dreams may come true this sleep, eh? [smurk emoji]).

… Cole World, but hopefully the music, again, will keep us warm this winter, huh. From Friday Night Lights (still standing as your strongest to date) up to now, it’s evident you don’t play; and you ain’t let the ‘villains down just yet… i trust you — and trust that you don’t intend on doing so anytime soon either.