It’s been two LONG years since we have received a J.Cole solo studio album.
Cole has been relatively MIA in 2016. The only heard from him has been from live performances, and a feature on DJ Khaled’s album. Last Friday, Cole blessed us with a new album 4 Your Eyez Only. This album has been highly anticipated. It is only right that Cole hits us with a concept album. We went in depth of each track, and narrowing down the story to show the true genius that J.Cole brought out in making this album.
1. False Prophets
Though this track didn’t make the album, and for obvious reasons. False Prophets is the first single released from J.Cole in years. While Cole chants on the chorus “somebody shoulda told me it would be like this,” the smooth drum-line, chimes and base linger in the background to fabricate a smooth space for Cole to work. Cole takes you through a trip in his mind while he vents about various subjects that surround hip-hop. This track received major controversy for the first two verses. The first verse is seemingly calling out Kanye West for constantly acting out for attention, and not putting out the same kind of music that made him a legend. In the second verse Cole talks about his friend (who fans speculate to be Wale) that desperately wants more respect. However, Cole reminds him that he has fans and accomplishments that he shouldn’t take for granted. Wale responded with “Groundhog Day,” and it seems as though there is no love lost between these two artists. This track is very eye opening as it was the first single anyone has heard from Cole in years.
2. Everybody Dies
Everybody dies was a track that was released with its video on J.Cole’s documentary “Eyez”. J.Cole delivers great bars over a laid back, smooth beat where he samples minnie riperton, and A tribe called quest. This interlude stirred up some controversy when it was released as Cole is seemingly taking shots at various artists such as lil yachty, lil uzi vert, 21 savage and also possibly even future. The track runs about 2 minutes and 42 seconds, and Cole is delivering clever lines, and hard hitting bars throughout it. Though this was a single, this and “False Prophet” never got put on the album. The reason for this is because they didn’t fit the theme or story on the album. The single did its job however. It gained some publicity for Cole (whether good or bad) and let everyone know to be prepared for his album.
3. For Whom The Bell Tolls
The album opens with the sound of a tape being inserted and played. There is a very dark image created by Cole’s dreary voice and drums that make your heart drop. Cole sings “Do I want to die? I Don’t Know!” This song is the very first instance of the story that Cole is portraying for the listener. We have a man who is contemplating suicide and dealing with major depression. As Cole and the backup vocals embed a powerful image in your mind of an individual standing in the rain debating whether life is worth living, you receive a powerful message uttering “The bells getting loud..” meaning life may come to an end for this individual. The horns and trumpets reside the lyrics generating a feeling of hopelessness. This song is incredibly powerful, and it opens up the album in a completely opposing way that we are used to from Cole.
In this track, the story that Cole is laying the foundation for continues. We are introduced to a man who runs the streets selling drugs. This man feels that he is going to die selling drugs, and that even when he dies he’s “immortal.” This point is made very clear from bars like: “If they want a nigga, they gon’ have to send a SWAT team And I’m goin’ out like Scarface in his last scene.” This track has a very dynamic feel to it. What makes this track stand out on the album is it’s aggressive verses, it’s intense beat, and the exuberant chorus that chants “Real niggas don’t die.” This track has definitely stood out to be one of the fan favorites on the album.
5. Deja Vu
Though this track does continue the concept for the album, it doesn’t articulate a clear visual for what Cole has in mind. OK, so Cole, who was just recently selling drugs and was portraying his life in the streets in the previous song just so happens to fall this hard in love at a club? It’s a little scratchy at times in this track. Some repetitive lines linger around this song such as ” put a finger in the sky if you wanna, nigga.” But aside from the story that cole is trying to portray in this song, the track overall isn’t that bad. Cole fans will appreciate his verses on this track as Cole does what he is very excellent at doing, writing an interesting story about falling in love at first sight. Now this is nothing we haven’t seen before from Cole. He’s done this on songs like “Dreams”, and “Power Trip.” However this track has a different feel to it. When the hook comes this track turns into somewhat of a hard-knocking banger which turns the whole complexity of the track around.
6. Ville Mentality
In this track we see Cole struggling with his life again. Now that the prior events of the story have taken place, we know that the man Cole is portraying is in love with a girl he met, but he can’t give up is life in the streets. Cole displays a soft singing voice where he reiterates “how long can I survive with this mentality?” At this point of the album you’re left wondering if Cole is going to change his ways and settle down. When the second verse hits, Cole’s voice is hitting harder. He is trying to convince himself that change is inevitable for him with lines like “give up my chain never,” and “Dirt on my name, never.” At the end of this track we get a foreshadow of what is going to happen if Cole continues to live for the streets. We hear a young girl talking about getting mad at her mom and wishing her father was there. This is signifying that Cole has passed away.
7. She’s Mine, Pt. 1
In this track we take a trip through Cole’s soul. Cole brings us in with a completely different mentality then the beginning of the album. Cole welcomes us with “I’ve never felt so alive.” This is different because at the beginning Cole was considering if life is worth living. Cole opens up about how much he loves this woman and how much she is changing him, and it is displaying beautifully. On tracks like “January 28th” on Forest Hills Drive, Cole complains that strangers know him better then he knows himself. He talks about how it is dangerous that there are people like that. However, on this track we see something completely different and somewhat eye opening. He tells the woman that she knows him better then he knows himself, and he kind of gives the impression that he is completely content with that. At the beginning of the album we are shown a man who won’t open up to anybody, and now he is completely alright with being comfortable around this woman. This is a very soft track, but it does a lot for the character that Cole is portraying. The production, and the way Cole delivers on this track give the sensation of pure poetry. It is a real heart grabbing soulful sound.
This track could be argued as one of the best songs on the album. Or that Cole has ever made. This track talks about the changes that Cole is going through in his distorted life. It also talks about the changes that need to happen in society. Cole is expressing that he is finally understanding the world around him. Powerful lines like: “Right now, my lifestyle destined for a federal facility For my ability to make them birds fly Fiends wanna get higher than a bird’s eye view And who am I tell a nigga what to do?” show just what he is going through as a man living for the streets. However this song embeds the message that change cannot come from someone like J.Cole’s “pen glide,” but the only way change can happen is from the “inside” of you. This song has a very powerful message and it is definitely one of Cole’s better pieces of work. At the end of the track, Cole simulates a news station, and a memorial service for a man named James who was killed. Cole makes it seem real as you hear cries in the background while people reminisce and send prayers for the man James. Cole made it abundantly clear that there needs to be changes in the world we live in.
This track has a hard time carrying on with the story that Cole has been laying down the foundation for. However, the song is a great piece for the album. The song is another banger for the album. Cole paints a picture of him moving to a white majority neighborhood, and all of his neighbors believe that he is selling drugs and drug-paraphernalia. The neighbors continue to call the police on Cole as they are stereotyping Cole for being African-American. Some lines that do this story some good justice is:”Black in a white man territory Cops bust in with the army guns No evidence of the harm we done Just a couple neighbors that assume we slang.” It is a pretty sad story about how Cole is so heavily prejudged because he is black. The song is overall a great track and is definitely a fan favorite for its upbeat tempo, and hype hook.
10. Foldin Clothes
Now this track has got a lot of criticism. You either love or hate this track. However, this track is a key piece of the story that Cole trying to tell. Picture a man who lives for selling drugs and other illegal activities. Now picture that same man in a living room doing something as soft as folding clothes. In the beginning of the story we had a man who was contemplating life and wouldn’t let anything come between him and selling drugs. However, now we have a changed man who has fallen in love, and sees the beauty in life. Lines like: “Woke up this morning feelin’ like the best version of me, so happy,” completely contradict how the man was feeling at the beginning of the story. Now that Cole is displaying the man appreciating the small things in life, even doing something as small as folding clothes is a joy for him now. This song has more complexity then people think, it isn’t just about folding clothes, it’s about the progression of this character, and how now the simple things in life are much more appreciated.
11. She’s Mine, Pt. 2
This song gives off the same feel as “She’s Mine, Pt.1”, even having the same hook. However, this track isn’t about his wife, this track is about his newborn daughter. This track is very beautiful as it is a great continuation to part 1. Cole dives into his soulful moody tone while he talks to his daughter. This track displays how much he actually cares about his daughter and how proud he is to have her. Lines like: ”Am I worthy of this gift?” and “I’ve never felt so alive” completely show how this character has progressed.
12. 4 Your Eyez Only
This song is easily the best track on the album. This song ties all the strings together and fully opens the story so we can better understand the story we’ve been listening to. Cole is rapping from the perspective of the man that we have been hearing throughout the whole album. The man reveals that throughout all of his endeavors, he is most proud of having his daughter. The man his talking directly to his daughter at this point of the album. He tells her that he feels he might lose his life soon because he was unable to give up life on the streets, and if she is hearing this tape it means that he has passed. He tells her many ways that he could have died. It could have been from the police, or someone trying to rob him. The man also tells her the story of how she got her name and how it was the “prettiest name he could think of for the prettiest thing he’s ever seen.” As the man talks more about how he may lose his life, he ends his verse with a chilling “I love you and I hope to God I don’t lose you.” The next verse is a message from J.Cole himself talking to the man’s daughter. It is revealed that they are longtime friends from Fayetteville. He tells her about a phone call he had with the man. The man tells Cole about how he has had the feeling he might die soon, and if he does he wants Cole to make a tape telling her his story. Cole reflects on the mistakes his friend made, and how if he had gotten away from the streets his life wouldn’t have had to end so abruptly. The end of the track leaves the listener with goosebumps as you hear the tape get extracted from the player. At this point you realize that the only reason you are hearing this album is because the man did happen to die, and Cole laid down his story in an album.