North Carolina native J. Cole gives the world his life stories in his debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story. He has several mixtapes under his belt,as well as, a feature on R&B artist Miguel’s chart topping single “All I Want Is You.” Cole’s album features appearances by heavy hitters such as Jay-Z, Missy Elliot, and Drake. Before getting signed to Jay-Z’s label Roc Nation, 24 year old Cole attended St. John’s University on an academic scholarship where he graduated magna cum laude. Always having a passion for music, Cole has been writing rhymes since the age of 15.
In his debut album, he speaks truthfully and relates to his audience about some harsh subject matter including life’s everyday struggles, absentee fathers, teen pregnancy and relationships.In “Never Told” he addresses the issue of men cheating on the women in their lives. Describing the immaturity of these men he rhymes, “Forever young…Peter Pan, thirty-five…still playin, child support…still payin.” “Breakdown” is another track where Cole faces his own issues of his father not being in his life.“Lost Ones” is a song that speaks about the dilemma of teen pregnancy and a woman’s decision whether or not to have an abortion, as well as, the after effects of leaving women to raise children alone. Cole raps, “I’m not with them n****s who be knocking girls up and skate out, so girl you gotta think bout how the options weigh out, whats the way out.”
Any comparisons to Drake’s style are left behind as Cole stands on his own as a new artist and as a lyricist. Drake is a bit sing songy in his verses and relies heavily on autotune. Unlike Cole who has a more humanistic approach to his style and his verses. The biggest difference between the two is the content of their verses. Drake concentrates on bragadocious lyrics touting himself as “one of the best rappers” in the game without offering much to go on. J. Cole, on the other hand, utilizes the art of storytelling and let’s the listener recognize his talent through the creativity of his rhymes. Not to say that Cole doesn’t brag as well is an understatement because he wouldn’t be consider a rapper if he didn’t.
Cole is intelligent with his lyrics. He is certainly more skilled than the average rapper these days. The whole album can pretty much be listened to from start to finish without skipping with some definite bangers namely “Sideline Story” where he showcases his wordplay the most, “God’s Gift”, “Rise and Shine” and “Mr. Nice Watch” which features production full of heavy synths and electric guitar, not to mention a hot verse from Jay-Z to pull it all together.
J. Cole’s debut album shows that he can give a refreshing take on urban subject matter and is enjoyable to listen to with solid production on every song. He covers harsh topics and tells a story of life with certain obstacles and how it affects family life and relationships, but inevitably overcoming the limitations of your surroundings and finding success. I rate his album 4 out of 5 stars. Cole certainly makes an impression in the hip hop game for his first round at the bat.