Cole World: The Sideline Story - J. Cole
First off I apologize for my three day hiatus, I was enjoying a lovely vacation. Cole World is J. Cole's debut studio album that dropped ten years ago today. It is certainly no ground-breaking record but it commercially kicked off J. Cole's career, which has gone on to be pretty impressive. In my opinion Cole is one of the most over hated rappers in recent memory. Comparing him to Kendrick is damn near blasphemy but Cole has been one of the best and most important rappers of the past decade no doubt, and with the success of The Off Season, which is one of his best records in my opinion, it looks like The Fall Off has some pretty great potential.
The Intro is just J. Cole talking about his come up and whatnot over a piano beat. The following Dollar And A Dream III features a grand and important sounding instrumental with great strings that build throughout the track. Cole's flow is hungry as he raps about chasing his dreams and coming up from being broke. He is lyrically great on this track with the exception of the infamous "you think that you're the shit but you can't out fart me"line which is obviously not great. Can't Get Enough features a smooth hook from Trey Songz and a faster flow from Cole. The instrumental is solid with a nice soulful sample woven in and the track is pretty great but Cole is lacking lyrically a bit on this one.
The instrumental on Lights Please is simple but great and Cole raps over it about how he's trying to develop a real relationship with a girl he's been hooking up with. His storytelling was great as every time he tried it failed and they ended up turning the lights off. On the Interlude Cole tells the story of when he got signed for the first time, and how he ended up in jail the day before he could put pen to paper with Roc Nation. The small undertone of a beat on Interlude progresses into a full blown instrumental on Sideline Story with a great piano and a hungry delivery from Cole. He once again has great bars, rapping his classic rags to riches story but Cole keeps it interesting and thematic, tying it to the larger social scape. Mr. Nice Watch features an energetic and synth heavy beat with a great break in the instrumental for a good chorus from J. Cole. His verse is hungry with even hungrier lyrics about reaching the top and some flashy and braggadocious bars as well, and a stand out verse from JAY-Z on the back end.
Cole World features a beat similar to that of the prior Mr. Nice Watch with a more hyper and electric sound to it. Cole isn't quite matching the energy of the track but his great rhymes make up for it. The instrumental on In The Morning is more piano based like a lot of other songs on the album. Cole drops another great lyrical verse about relationships and women, and Drake comes through with a solid verse as well with the exception of the extremely questionable "And I like thick girls because my aunt rode equestrian", which is a really odd comment to make. Moving on from that the hook could get slightly annoying but otherwise it's a great track. Lost Ones is the best song on this album. Cole gives a great storytelling performance, rapping from the male and female perspective in an argument about the woman being pregnant and them both wanting different things, with the woman feeling betrayed and tricked and the man knowing he's in the wrong but still carrying through with his beliefs.
The instrumental on Nobody's Perfect is unique compared to the other instrumentals on the album but is not really anything special. J. Cole and Missy Elliott are both pretty great on the track but nothing quite sticks out. Never Told is another track where nothing stands out much but it's just another solid track with some good rapping from Cole. Rise and Shine has a great instrumental with a beautiful soul sample woven in perfectly. J. Cole is at his hungriest here and his bars are strong. The progression throughout the song keeps it fun and interesting.
God's Gift features another beautiful soul sample and more great flows and bars from Cole. The electric guitar at the end of the track adds more to an already great track, as well as the chorus being one of J. Cole's best on the album. Breakdown has another great instrumental on the latter half of the album. Another track where Cole delivers strongly but the track misses a stand out moment. Work Out is a song that has resurfaced to the mainstream once again in the last year or two, and it's for good reason. It features some of Cole's best singing and he switches up his delivery often, which is rare for him on this album. He also utilizes the sample of Kanye's The New Workout Plan greatly, using it to make a classic song of his own.
Ten years later Cole World: The Sideline Story holds up fairly well. The instrumentals however do not hold up greatly as they lack any type of variety or complexity, with rare moments of innovation and variation. However J. Cole does show off his pen game and lyrical ability throughout most of the album, with Rise and Shine and Lost Souls being the best tracks for that. The features were all solid but this album mostly serves as a prelude to Cole's career. Throughout the album you see his potential and artistry but it never quite comes together as he stays in his comfort zone in terms of flows, deliveries and instrumentals. With that being said J. Cole's comfort zone is better than a lot of other artists and it is his debut studio album as well so I can't knock him too harshly for it.