J. Cole's fan page @j.cole, retrieved 12/16/2016
J. Cole’s fan page @j.cole, retrieved 12/16/2016

You’re either a fan of J. Cole’s music or you’re not moved by the Fayetteville, North Carolina lyricist at all – there’s no in between. That’s the kind of feedback fans have dished out in their reviews of his fourth album release 4 Your Eyes Only. Some rap fans ridicule his music—they call him boring. However, for many of J. Cole’s core fans base, this album is instantly another classic since the debut of his mixed tape, The Come Up in 2007, which told a story about a young man who left “everything he loved” to follow his dreams.

Cole’s latest album 4 Your Eyes Only theoretically is a narrative of the life of a man from the streets, otherwise trapped in the dope game. The rapper, born Jermaine Lamarr Cole, is no stranger to the game, but he doesn’t glorify it. He talks about the importance of living a righteous life as a family man, the mortality of black men, creating opportunity in the communities, mass incarceration and the things that really matter in life. It’s evident that he’s personally grown as a person and as an artist this time around.

The album begins with a dark and melodic, slow-jammed introduction with “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” which references bells ringing at a funeral. Cole reflects on his life, contemplating whether he wants to live or die. The track centers on the idea of death and suicide, inspired by Ernest Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

“The bells getting loud, ain’t nowhere to hide

Got nowhere to go, put away my pride

Tired of feeling low even when I’m high

Ain’t no way to live, do I wanna die?

I don’t know, I don’t know”

The album, seems to mirror J. Cole’s battle with wanting to leave the dope game, and references a friend, allegedly James McMilllian Jr, who was murdered at 22. Cole hasn’t yet spoke about the meaning of his album, but in the last track 4 Your Eyes Only, you discover that Cole is actually writing most of the album from his friend’s perspective who never made it out of the streets. He presumably writes a passionate song to McMillian’s daughter, named Nina, who he left behind.

“Write my story down and if I pass

Go play it for my daughter when she ready

And so I’m leaving you this record for your eyes only”

Cole is a genius in the way he incorporates his story while also dropping powerful jewels on so many levels. Whether McMillian Jr. is a fictitious character or not, he relays a message to the youth about the consequences of being trapped in the drug game through many of his tracks i.e. “Immortal,” which received great reviews.

In “Ville Mentality” he addresses the ‘Fayetteville mentality,’’ which is also a slow melodic track. In the song, he includes a spoken interlude from a young girl, Nina, who can be heard talking about her father whom she lost to the streets. “Ville Mentality” means “opportunity is in your mentality,” and it’s possible to succeed in the small town where he grew up if you change the way you think – otherwise not becoming a product of your environment.

In other popular tracks such as “0Déjà Vu,” “She’s Mine,” and “Folding Clothes,” his perspective changes from dark and heavy to euphoric, when he talks about the love for his woman and daughter – an idea that seems to change his way of thinking. His album teaches the importance of family values and change that starts from within.

Cole, a hip-hop recording artist and record producer, was born to Kay Cole, growing up in a small town while trying to make ends meet. Young Simba, he introduces himself, left his town to chase his dreams in Jamaica Queens where he also gained the opportunity to attend school at St. John’s University in Queens. New York.

Cole was the first act to sign under Jay Z’s newly formed Roc Nation label in 2009 but it took him two years to release his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story in 2011. It went on to sell over 215,000 copies its first week, landing him on Billboard 200 charts. The album has since reached platinum status and Cole gives credit to his dedicated fans for its success.

Cole’s success has allowed him to start the Dreamville Foundation to give back to his hometown youth in Fayetteville by providing them with school supplies and taking them on field trips and  to amusement parks.

Aside from his career, the Dreamville founder feels that his biggest accomplishment is buying his favorite childhood home; a quaint split-level house located at Forest Hills Drive, hence the name of his 2014 album.

Cole seems to be reaching his dreams of making his hometown a better place for the new generation of leaders.

Check out the tracks in 4 Your Eyes Only if you haven’t heard the album.

Written By: Taylor Bennett

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