After having a full 5 days to digest J. Cole’s already wildly successful
“KOD” (King Overdosed/Kids on Drugs/Kill Our Demons) album, I finally feel
like I can review the project with clear objectivity. Initially, like what
seemed like the majority of streamers on 4/20, I absolutely loved it. As a
follow up to “4 Your Eyez Only”, this first impression takeaway was huge,
because “4 Your Eyez Only” took several listens to appreciate, and in all
honesty, if the artist’s name was anything other than Jermaine Cole, he
likely wouldn’t have garnered enough inherit respect to justify the added,
patient rotations for such a sonically underwhelming product. In “4 Your
Eyez Only”, Cole rapped like he had something to prove, and chose a
deliberately bare medium to project from; in “KOD’’, you got the sense that
Cole had nothing more to prove, but a hell of a lot to say.
Now, that’s not to say that I’ve made any abrupt deviations from my initial
interpretation of the record; when the smoke finally cleared, the album
still stood strong, cemented in an overall impressive foundation built from
some of the best material Cole had ever constructed. As a whole, “KOD” was
a showcase of what Cole does best, which was its greatest strength. It was
a better version of J. Cole, which sounds like a tremendous compliment given
what he is known for. However, this realization also indirectly exposed the
Achilles heel of the industry titan; there is a vast difference between
sharpening weapons you already possess and upgrading/expanding your arsenal.
While “KOD” may be the best version of Cole we’ve ever heard, it’s still, at
its core, the same J. Cole.
Many would understandably argue that this isn’t a bad thing at all, and to
an extent, I concede. One aspect that some haters highlight to separate
Cole from similar “woke” rappers is his transparency, which is often touted
by his Stans as a positive testament to the rapper’s relatability. In
“KOD”, he’s perhaps more transparent than ever-there’s little to no room for
misinterpretation, and little to no point in digging deeper into the lyrics.
However, what separate’s “KOD” from previous, similar projects was that he
was able to manipulate that tendency into the album’s greatest strength
through brilliant timing, as well as composed, emotionally powerful, and
deeply personal testimony. He simply did this better than he did on any
previous effort. It was a sign of the rapper’s progression and development
as an artist. Still, this shouldn’t be confused with evolution, because
this wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before from him. It was the same
thing, just better.
Lyrically, the album was solid, as expected. The title track set a perfect
tone for the record, and featured brief stretches of impressive wordplay and
lyricism. Sonically, it was high energy and thoroughly enjoyable, which is
more than could be said for the majority of “4 Your Eyez Only”. The only
“lull” the album suffered were the next two tracks, but this was easy to
forgive as soon as “ATM’ showed up. This song is more likely than most
others, with the possible exception of “KOD”, to be heard either on the
radio or nightclub. It was infectiously clever and catchy. The rest of the
album was less radio friendly, but arguably even better, with the possible
exception of “Motiv8”, which along with “Photograph” stood out with
‘belonged-on-4-Your-Eyez-Only’ level acoustic mediocrity. “Kevin’s Heart”
(my personal favorite; shit shook my fucking soul) through “1985” (perhaps
rap’s most clever diss track ever, and without a doubt Cole’s most/only
innovative song on the album) feature everything Cole fans love about the
North Carolina emcee, most notably countless moments that make the listener
stop in their tracks and say “….well, daaaaamn…”. But, stiil, this is still
vintage Cole. A new and improved recipe? Unquestionably, but it’s still
the same damn entrée. That’s my only issue with the album.
This review was meant to be largely positive. “KOD” was very, very, very
good. I have to admit that Cole’s fanbase unfortunately taints my
experience of an otherwise great musician. They fucking force me to do this
by taking a faithful, righteous disciple and proclaiming him as a God. He
is a King, without a doubt. However, “KOD” did nothing to close the gap
separating the very, very, very good “King” Cole from God-like GREATness.
The potential is there; it simply hasn’t been realized. The unfortunate
reality is that his fans think he already is there, stunting his growth,
satisfying his hunger, and forever cementing his legacy in debate, when we
should all be able to simply be grateful for his contribution as a dope ass
What are your thoughts? Share your opinion!