What a hand full of days it has been for Dreamville fans. From J. Cole returning to Twitter, to the pop up shows, to speculation of what would be coming, to speculation over the track listing, multiple video releases, freestyle-like appearances on ESPN with playoff series intro’s (and a NASTY instrumental), to finally being able to listen to the album, KOD.
J. Cole very well could not be your favorite artist, and you may not even like his music for a multitude of reasons, but one thing you will do is respect his hustle and what he stands for. In a day and age where the names associated with the art form that is hip-hop are mentioned in main stream media circles with a negative connotation attached, or are drama-filled, here is an artist that goes about his craft with a business-like approach and stays out of the way regarding the TMZ and E News garnering stunts.
Some say his low key, diligent, laid back, and conscientious approach to the art works adversely to his efforts in cementing his stamp on the game due to the norms in this era of rap.
I do not believe it works against him. In fact, I feel as though his “true to self” authenticity that makes him an outlier in the game makes him who he is.
Also, the resounding response from his fanbase (which remains unique and almost unparalleled) is further confirmation that his unique and creative approach is not only productive, but equally effective.
Leading up to the Album release
His fifth studio album titled KOD came as a surprise to many as he took to Twitter, a platform he is jokingly criticized of for not using it much, to invite fans to join him for what was then just “something”. Leaving plenty of ambiguity.
Not only did this come as a surprise that sent fans in New York on a last minute frenzy to solidify a chance to experience this opportunity that was eerily reminiscent of the artists “Dollar and a Dream Tour” structure, but it also brought many questions to the forefront.
A rare and spontaneous, yet short and concise tweet from Cole started everything.
From here on, there was plenty of ambiguity in the air for the preview session that lasted a few hours.
His many fans took to Twitter to tweet about their excitement over Cole being back, and to also speculate amongst each other as to what was going on.
Shortly there after we would all learn from the man himself exactly what was coming. which would be his fifth studio album titled “KOD.”
After a few days of Cole going to Europe to do a pop up show in London, then releasing the projects cover art and track listing, he would reveal to the public exactly what the acronym and project title, KOD, stood for. This brought much clarity as to the direction and concept of this album.
After the album released at midnight ET, Twitter once again was set on fire as J. Cole and his album KOD were the top trends.
The first listen, for me, left me in thought and increased my level of appreciation for him and his willingness to stay authentic to his subject matter through experimenting with new flows and paces.
To myself, I kept saying I really enjoyed this and but the first listen went by so fast.
More than anything, this album had such an element of surprise due to his experimenting with new flows, delivery, and instrumentals that it made processing the entire thing tough off one listen.
So many thoughts ran through my mind while enjoying my first listen. The pure excitement really took over.
In other words, the music enthusiast and J. Cole fan in me took over after pressing play the first time. Which forced me to reserve my critiquing of the project for after a few more listens.
The three songs that stood out to me off the first listen (in order of which I liked most):
Window Pain (Outro) – the fact that this instrumental is so attention garnering, then the kid who began to speak their piece about the cousin who had been shot, Cole bringing clarity to who exactly kiLL edward was, him mentioning the girl who he came across over the summer, then the boy at the end who spoke his piece made for my favorite.
Brackets – this track stood out because of how we got a “Lil Cole” throwback appearance from his younger days while he spoke on the phone with “Uncle Sam” about paying taxes, then Cole speaking from his perspective questioning where our tax dollars really go, and how he doesn’t see the results he expects, the governments underhandedness, untrustworthy, crooked and monetizing ways, and Cole jabbing at the flawed structure of democracy.
The Cut Off – talk about being able to connect with a song and an artist seeming speaking almost for you through a song, this one was exactly that. Speaking on having to cut people off because of them using him, the relationships not being of any benefit to him, allowing time to show who is truly down for him, and the entire pace and flow of the track. It all fit perfectly to me.
After spending a little over a week with this album, allowing for me to listen to this album in different moods, through headphones, in my car, while running errands, at the gym, and in any other way we all listen to music, I can comfortably say that I believe this is undoubtedly his most versatile project to date.
There is a different version of Cole sprinkled throughout the albums entirety.
Mixtape Cole due to the articulation of his words and forceful delivery, storytelling Cole which is unparalleled, teacher Cole, forewarning mentor Cole, harmonizing Cole, and all the other different forms he has taken on in the past made an appearance on this one, making for another confirmed classic.
With recency bias and my personal bias aside, I give KOD a strong 9/10.
The only thing leaving this album from receiving a 10/10 from me is that there was only 12 tracks.
After the year and some change between 4YEO and the release of KOD on 4/20, I just wanted a few more tracks on the project, although I am well aware that there is more to come in the near future.
As far as subject matter, content, lyrical structure, flow, delivery, the album resonating, the track listing structure, instrumentals, and overall vibe of the album, it is flawless.
Cole and his team also knocked it out of the park with the cover art for this album, depicting exactly what was needed to plant a seed of thought and intrigue to someone who is about to listen for the first time.
For anyone that truly listened, Once an Addict (Interlude) had to bring about some level of reflection on how you would feel in the situation presented in the story he told about his Mom. That song alone evoked plenty of emotion from Cole, understandably. That song itself could be spoken about at length. Cole mentioned the significance and how much this song resonates with him on Twitter.
Cole taking his platform and allowing for long time friend Kevin Hart to admit to his wrongs while being an example of what can happen with the many temptations the world throws at us was a clever and well executed project with “Kevin’s Heart.” The video for this track also did a great job of pinpointing on temptations, struggles, and the consequences they can have when we don’t choose wisely.
Taking on a 4:44-like approach on “1985” by teaching and forewarning through self-reflection really stood out to me. He spoke generally, in an ‘if the shoe fits then wear it” manner by commenting on what he has seen transpiring in rap, and more than anything, proved to me that he has fully embraced his “OG” stature in the game. Dishing out ample amounts of advice to those up and coming in the genre in hopes that they can put their feelings aside and apply the advice he’s giving for the betterment of their lives and careers. Also, the instrumental to this track reminded me so much of the ones Wu-Tang is well known for rapping over. A very ill and dope vibe.
With the ATM track and video, he did a masterful job with his play on being “Addicted To Money.” The song alone articulated how the chase and obsession with it can easily lead to our downfall. The video just took that perspective and brought about an addition to how the addiction to drugs can negatively impact us, and slapped us all in the face with the creativity and energy exuded, which he attributed to rap legend Busta Rhymes and Flipmode for the inspiration.
When the product consistently impresses, then resonates with listeners over and over, you have to sit back and appreciate the sometimes tough to deal with as a true fan, yet meticulous frequency at which Jermaine pushes his music out at.
His music consistently has timeless replay value, yet still leaves even his biggest supporters wanting more.
KOD is yet another project where, this time, Cole took a chance by stepping out of his perceived “comfort zone” and experimented with new deliveries and instrumentals to put his artistry on display.
I will continue to complain about the distance between releases due to the inner fiend in me for music from Cole, but it will always be appreciated and well worth the wait.
This is another classic, and will continue to stay in rotation for me, and the rest of the fiends in Dreamville.
This was my take after spending a little over a week with KOD, if you want to continue dialogue with me on the album, Cole, Dreamville, or if you have critiquing comments, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @StayTrueSdot3. All dialogue is accepted!
Also, if you share the same viewpoints as me, do me a favor and show me some love on Twitter by sharing the link to this post or retweeting my tweet about it (it will be pinned to my account). I look forward to having many conversations about this album.
Thanks for the read, it is much appreciated.
*Follow your heart, do what you love, and do so passionately*