On June 18, 2013, J. Cole went head-to-head with one of the rappers he looks up to the most, Kanye West, as their albums Born Sinner and Yeezus were released on the same day. Although Yeezus was received with more critical acclaim and sold more in the first week, do not chalk things up as a loss for Cole. J. Cole may have been only the second best rapper/producer on June 18th, but such a spin is selling the rapper short, as with his new and best album to date 2014 Forest Hills Drive, J. Cole has solidified himself a second only to Kanye when it comes to the best rapper/producer in music today.
Out of nowhere, 2014 Forest Hills Drive (Cole’s third studio album) was announced a month ago, as the album’s pre-order appeared on Amazon before J. Cole ever mentioned an upcoming project. Soon after, Cole formally announced the project launched a contest allowing a few lucky fans to travel to his childhood North Carolina home, where 2014 Forest Hills Drive gets its name, to hear the new album early and in its entirely. While the album hits shelves and iTunes on December 9th, through Roc Nation, the 13-track album is available now for streaming.
2014 Forest Hills Drive is J. Cole’s best album, and perhaps best project (which includes his fan-favorite mixtape Friday Night Lights), in almost all aspects. From its production, to Cole’s flow and lyrics, the album clearly shows Cole’s perfection of his process. His improvements from 2013’s Born Sinner in terms of lyrics are best demonstrated in ‘Fire Squad’, where Cole stakes his claim as a leader in rap with as much passion as Kendrick Lamar’s controversial ‘Control’ verse.
“Keep it true like me, Cole you might be, like the new Ice Cube, meets the new Ice-T, meets 2 Live Crew, meets the new Spike Lee, meets Bruce like Wayne, meets Bruce like Lee, meets ’02 Lil Wayne, in a new white tee, meets KD, ain’t no n*gga that can shoot like me! BLAOOOW!”
Cole then moves into topics of rap in rap music, comparing Elvis’ theft of rock and roll music from African Americas to the emergence of successful white rappers (specifically naming Eminem, Macklemore and Iggy Azalea). While many rappers can stunt and brag about their raps through their lyrics, Cole takes it to a higher level where his lyrics still carry meaning. It is one thing to brag about your C-Class Benz, it is another to rap about how you were not afraid to go “toe-to-toe” with Kanye West.
J. Cole sticks with his theme of being the hottest rapper out in ‘January 28th’, titled after Cole’s birthday as he raps “But check your birth date nigga, you ain’t the God. Nah you ain’t the God, n*gga Cole the God… January 28th.” While tooting his own horn, at the same time Cole is also paying homage to the man who signed him to Roc Nation, Jay-Z, as Hov’s classic project, The Black Album, contains the track ‘December 4th’ (titled after Jay-Z’s birthday). It worth noting though that Rick Ross also shares a January 28th birthday, so perhaps he is the Rap God also. Either way, happy birthday Jay-Z!
Cole also showcases his storytelling ability, specifically through his ‘Wet Dreamz’ track as a young Jermaine and his childhood love interest both share their first times having sex. Describing the memory vividly, at times rapping the parts of both characters, ‘Wet Dreamz’ is reminiscent of his track ‘Lights Please’ through its descriptive lyrics but with improved creativity in its story telling.