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.
￼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.
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.
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