Album Review | J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive

Some guy reached out to me on Twitter a few months ago and asked about a J. Cole review. I kinda implied that I was workin’ on one even tho I wasn’t. To be honest I actually forgot that I even said that I would do this. It’s been like 2 months since that happened. Two days ago he hit me up on Twitter again and was like “What’s uh… What’s goin’ on man.” Then I was like “…Oh yeah. I still haven’t done that yet.” I’ll probably go back and do all of J. Cole’s other projects some day, but for now I’m just gonna do his latest project. This album came out late last year after about only one week of promotion. As a big fan of J. Cole I was pretty goddamn excited. Pretty much everyone I talked to about this album (basically 90% of the minorities at my school. So like 4 black kids) seemed to love it. I think I liked it too. I haven’t listened to it in a minute, so hopefully it hasn’t lost it’s shine. I also remember trying to get into the listening party for the album. It was about an hour away. I applied for it and never heard back. I prolly shoulda told them that I was like 23. I don’t know if that would’ve worked tho because I look like a 12 year old. Nah I’m just playin’. I’m still mad that I didn’t get into the listening party tho. I’m not really into concerts, but listening parties seem like more of my style.

Track 1: Intro (Prod. J. Cole & Ron Gilmore)

This isn’t really a complete song. It’s really just J. Cole moaning about happiness & freedom over a very soulful and smooth beat. To be honest this beat kinda sounds like a slowed down version of the next song. It’s really nice and smooth tho. I actually really like this. Cole’s singin’ isn’t exactly “good,” but I like how you can hear the emotion and passion in his voice. It wouldn’t have felt right if he got some random singer as a feature for the intro to his album. This isn’t really something that I would listen to by itself, but I fuck with it. I actually used GarageBand to add this intro to the beginning of the next song. I understand why he separated the two tracks, but to me they just feel more complete as one song. I’m not gonna give this a rating since it isn’t really a full song. I did like it tho.

Track 2: January 28th (Prod. J. Cole, Nick Paradise, Dre Charles & Team Titans)

I love this fuckin’ beat. As I mentioned before, it really feels like a more uptempo version of the intro track. It’s still smooth as hell tho. It has these really nice female vocals in the background and they sound great. Before Cole’s verse actually starts, there’s an intro where someone is talkin’ about makin’ a million dollars. It has these really strange effects on it that make it incredibly difficult to understand. It doesn’t sound bad tho. J. Cole’s first verse is dope, but the second verse is what really stands out. “What’s the price for a black man life? / I check the toe tag, not one zero in sight / I turn the TV on, not one hero in sight / Unless he dribble or he fiddle with mics.” The lyrics on the hook are very positive and inspiring. I fuck with the hook. It’s smooth and it doesn’t last too long. I definitely fuck with this song. The beat is smooth as fuck, the hook is dope and Cole’s verses are on point. His flow and delivery aren’t anything special, but he gets the job done. This is dope af. 5/5

Track 3: Wet Dreamz (Prod. J. Cole)

This beat is real smooth. It’s dope. I don’t think it’s amazing or anything, but I like it. Cole’s flow is kinda dope on this one too. The topic is uh… I don’t know. It’s different, but I really don’t think anyone wanted this information. He’s talkin’ about the first time he had sex. Maybe if I was like twelve years old I would think this song was really funny and interesting. It’s not really bad, but… I don’t know. I didn’t need to know about this. “I’m thinkin’ how she rides on it, if she sits on it, if she licks on it / Make it hard for me to stand up.” This song just makes me a little… Not uncomfortable, but… Why the fuck would I wanna hear about this? For real, who was like “Man, J. Cole is so deep. I wonder what he’s gonna rap about next. Hopefully it’s about his first nut.” Nah. The hook isn’t anything special. “I’m hoping that my shit is big enough to fuck with & most of all I’m praying, ‘God don’t let me bust quick.'” There’s a “twist” at the end I guess. The whole song Cole is talkin’ about how he’s nervous because he’s never fucked anyone before and then at the end it’s revealed that she’s a virgin too. You’re shocked right? Right? …Right? That is the lamest “twist” I’ve ever heard of. Was anyone really surprised by this? Even if you were, it’s not like it’s that amazing. I just assumed that she was a virgin from the beginning. He doesn’t give us that much reason to believe that she isn’t. I don’t know if Cole expected everyone to be shocked or what, but personally this is just weird. It’s interesting to some people I guess, but it’s hard for me to imagine a grown ass man playin’ this shit. Hell, I’m only 16 and I still feel childish listening to this. It’s not really a bad song, but it’s just… Weird. It’s not bad sonically, but… It’s just kinda boring. The topic definitely keeps your attention, but I was kinda hoping it wouldn’t. This is just okay. It’s definitely not bad, but, as I said before, this is just a weird ass topic. It’s alright. 3/5

Track 4: ’03 Adolescence (Prod. Willie B)

Willie B did a really good job with this beat. When it starts off it makes me think of one of them old animated Disney movies. Not sure why. Well, actually I do. The first 18 seconds of this song sound like the little jingle that plays at the beginning of the first scene of one of them old cartoon movies like Lady & The Tramp. That’s a good ass movie by the way. I’m in the library right now and there’s some baby howling like a wolf. It’s ridiculous. Anyway, J. Cole is goin’ in right now about how he wishes he had more shit like a bad bitch girlfriend, some new shoes, etc. Well, damn. He’s actually still talkin’ about the girl. About half of the first verse is spent talkin’ about how he doesn’t have the confidence to approach a bad bitch in his town. He eventually moves past that and talks about the crime in his city and how he doesn’t have a father. The hook is basically just J. Cole singin’ about how life is kinda fucked up sometimes. “Things change, rearrange and so do I / It ain’t always for the better, dawg, I can’t lie / I get high cause the lows can be so cold / I might bend a little bit but I don’t fold.” His singing voice isn’t that good, but I like the way the hook sounds. He gets the job done and sounds pretty emotional about the subject. I fuck with the hook. The second verse is the standout section of this song. He raps about how he looks up to this gangsta kid who’s the same age as him and wishes he was gangsta too. He’s like “man, lemme sell some drugs. I wanna be hard too.” Then the other kid is like “Who the fuck do you think you are?” “He told me, ‘Nigga, you know how you sound right now? / If you wasn’t my mans, I would think that you a clown right now / Listen, you everything I wanna be that’s why I fucks with you / So how you looking up to me when I look up to you?'” He goes on to tell Cole about how tough his life is and it’s… It’s… It’s REAL! Man this song is so fuckin’ real. I definitely fuck with this song. This song is dope af. 5/5

Track 5: A Tale of 2 Citiez (Prod. Vinylz)

This beat is a lot more hard hitting and Trap inspired than the other beats on this album so far. It’s probably the first song on the album that can’t be described as “smooth.” It’s not really anything special to be honest. Cole’s goin’ in about how he used to dream about gettin’ rich. The hook is alright. It’s kinda boring. That’s really the problem with this song. The beat gets pretty boring after about thirty seconds. The hook is kinda underwhelming too. The second verse pretty much just talks about sellin’ bricks to try to leave the city. This song isn’t really that bad, but it just isn’t that interesting. This has been done so many times before. It’s not like Cole does a bad job, but it’s nothing special. It just feels kinda generic. It’s definitely not a bad song tho. It’s alright. 3/5

Track 6: Fire Squad (Prod. J. Cole & Vinylz)

This beat is more hard hitting just like the previous track, but it’s definitely more interesting. There’s a lot more going on with this beat. It’s still not amazing, but it’s not bad either. The hook is alright I guess. He’s singin’ again. It still isn’t great. It’s not terrible, but it’s just so boring. He doesn’t even sound that excited. The first verse is pretty dope. “I am the bravest, go toe to toe with the giants / I ain’t afraid of you niggas, I’ll end up fading you niggas.” It’s nice to get more confidence from Cole, but this verse is just too short. It’s about as long as the hook. The next verse is pretty good too. It’s about twice as long as the first verse and he names a lot of celebrities like Ice Cube, The 2 Live Crew, Lil Wayne, Bruce Lee, etc. His delivery on the last line of the second verse is really loud and rough. It kinda sounds like Kendrick’s voice when he be screaming like he did on the Control verse. I wish Cole would make a song where he was just spittin’ bars with a real hard delivery like that. That would be dope af. There’s a bridge right before the final verse. It’s alright. It does it’s job. The third verse is easily the best. He talks about white people appropriating Hip Hop culture and name drops Eminem, Justin Timberlake & Macklemore among others. “While silly niggas argue over who gon’ snatch the crown / Look around, my nigga, white people have snatched the sound / This year I’ll prolly go to the awards dappered down / Watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile.” This would be a lot better if he didn’t immediately state the he was just “playin’.” You can tell that he was worried about the possible controversy that a statement like this would cause. He pretty much says “White people are stealing our culture. Nah, I’m just playin’. It’s kinda true tho if you think about it. I’m just playin’ tho. But seriously. They’re stealin’ the sound. Kinda.” It’s not like what he’s sayin’ isn’t true or at least interesting. Hopefully he learns to not be such a bitch about sayin’ how he really feels someday. The song is pretty good. The beat is cool, his verses are nice and the hook is… okay. I coulda done without the long ass outro, but it doesn’t really bother me that much. I fuck with this song. This is dope. 4/5

Track 7: St. Tropez (Prod. J. Cole)

This beat is amazing. It’s so goddamn smooth. Cole is singing the whole first verse. Nah. Again, he doesn’t sound terrible, but I really would’ve preferred a full verse. The female backup vocals sound pretty good, but still. The hook is pretty bad honestly. This whole song is about how Cole is successful and he’s gettin’ money now. It’s like how he felt when he first blew up. The beat is smooth as hell, but… Really who wanted a full song of J. Cole singin’? Not me. He does not rap on this shit at all. Again, this song is smooth as fuck, but I really don’t want to hear Cole singin’ like this. The hook is wack. The beat is fucking amazing. The verses aren’t good. J. Cole’s vocals are easily the worst thing about this song. This beat was originally meant for Kendrick Lamar. That would’ve been great. I think. I doubt it would’ve been worse than this. This really wouldn’t have been bad if Cole rapped instead of singing. You know what he should’ve done? He should’ve just left this as an instrumental interlude for the album. That would’ve been great. I’m not feelin’ this. I can’t take a full song of J. Cole singin’. The beat is fucking amazing tho. I need to download the instrumental version of this song. 2/5

Track 8: G.O.M.D. (Prod. J. Cole)

This beat is pretty dope. Oh shit. When that bass comes in…

DAT BEAT THOOOOOO

This beat is so much more well produced and exciting than A Tale of 2 Citiez & Fire Squad. Shit, everything about this song is more exciting. The beat sounds like it had a lot more effort put into it than the other songs and Cole’s flow and delivery are so much better. The first verse of this song is incredibly ignorant. “I said to the window, to the wall / My nigga ride when I call / Got bitches all in my mind / Fuck nigga blocking my shine.” The hook is pretty dope. I could see how some people might find it annoying tho. After he says “This is the part that the thugs skip” he starts rapping about more important shit that actually matters. The beat switches up for the final verse and it’s fuckin’ crazy. His flow on this song is so much better. He pretty much stepped everything up for this song. The production, delivery, flow & hook are much more interesting on this one than they are on a lot of the other songs. I fuck with this. This is dope af. 5/5

Track 9: No Role Modelz (Prod. Phonix Beats & J. Cole)

This beat is dope af. Sonically, this is probably one of the best songs on the album. The beat is dope af and the hook is very catchy. Cole is talkin’ about exactly what you think he’s talkin’ about. He didn’t have any role models when he was being raised. He kinda… Randomly starts talkin’ about how he’s fuckin’ on a real bad bitch. “I came fast like 9-1-1 in white neighborhoods / Ain’t got no shame ’bout it.” I don’t know what to say about that. I feel like I should be uncomfortable, but for some reason I’m not. His first verse is pretty good. The part about the bad bitch is pretty entertaining and he also says a lot of real shit. “I thought back, back to a better me / Before I was a B-list celebrity / Before I started callin’ bitches “bitches” so heavily / Back when you could get a platinum plaque without no melody.” The second verse is pretty funny too. I could see how some women might be  offended tho. He comes off as pretty… misogynistic. He talks a lot about “hoes.” There’s an interlude in this track with George W. Bush. It’s a clip of him messing up a simple phrase that everyone knows. Hahahahahahahahaha. What a fucking dumbass. I don’t know how such dumb people can get so much power. Well, I know it has to do with white skin and rich parents, but I’m sure there’s more to it. I definitely fuck with this song. Sonically it’s one of the best songs on the project. I’m surprised this wasn’t the first single for the album. It’s dope af. 5/5

Track 10: Hello (Prod. J. Cole, Pop Wansel & J. Proof)

This beat is alright I guess. This really just isn’t the type of production that I’m into. This song… This song sucks. It has the same problem that St. Tropez has. The only difference is that the beat isn’t nearly as good. He’s singin’ too damn much. This is bad. This shit is so emotional. The beat sounds way too fast paced. This isn’t good. I don’t even know how to explain this. He raps a little bit for the second verse and his flow is dope af, but this is just bad. He’s singin’ about some chick that he doesn’t see any more. This is so emotional. I can’t take this shit. I’m not feelin’ this at all. This is wack af to me. Nah. Nah. 1/5

Track 11: Apparently (Prod. J. Cole & Omen)

This beat is dope. It’s led by a piano and it’s smooth af. Cole is singin’ a lot on this damn song, but it doesn’t sound as bad as it did on Hello or St. Tropez. The first verse of this song is dedicated to his mama. “And I need to treat you better / Wish you could live forever / So we could spend more time together.” Goddamn. That’s probably the most relatable shit he’s said on the whole album so far. This beat is dope af. It’s so goddamn smooth. The second verse is where shit really gets goin’. This is where he starts rappin’ for real. His flow on this second verse is dope af. “I’m hot, dog, catch up to me nigga.” …Oh …Oh God… That was… Terrible. I fuck with this song. This song is dope. I would probably call it dope af if he actually rapped more. It’s still dope tho. 4/5

Track 12: Love Yourz (Prod. !llmind, Cardiak & CritiCal)

This beat is dope af. It’s incredibly smooth. It has the same vibe as ’03 Adolescence. The hook is dope af. “No such thing as a life that’s better than yours.” This song is all about appreciating what you have. “The good news is nigga you came a long way / The bad news is nigga you went the wrong way.” That line is dope af, but right after that he says “think bein’ broke was better.” That line kinda rubbed me the wrong way. If this song is all about appreciation then why would he say some shit like that? He sorta addresses it later on in the next verse, but his explanation is pretty much “No seriously, being broke is better. Trust me. I have so much money right now. It sucks.” I get what he’s tryin’ to say, but still. It just bothered me a little. It really doesn’t ruin the song. I still fuck with the overall message and I love the slow, smooth beat. I fuck with this. This song is dope af. 5/5

Track 13: Note To Self (Prod. J. Cole & Ron Gilmore)

This really isn’t a complete song. There’s a beat and J. Cole sings a little bit at the beginning, but the rest of it is pretty much just Cole sayin’ thank you to everyone who helped with the album. There’s really no reason to not delete this. I’m not gonna give this a rating.

Track +: Be Free (Prod. J. Cole)

This song was released on August 15 last year in response to the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the man who murdered Michael Brown Jr. It wasn’t on the album, but goddamn. This song is so fuckin’ sad. I don’t really have much to say about this one. The beat is actually really dope tho. I really like this beat. J. Cole is singing all over this one, but you can really hear the emotion in his voice. It’s too fuckin’ emotional to get mad at. I can’t hear him say “don’t just stand around” like that and then say “WHY THE FUCK HE SINGIN” SO MUCH?” It just wouldn’t be right. This song is so fuckin’ sad. I fucking love this song. The only thing that really takes away from it is Cole’s use of the N word. “Can you tell me why every time I step outside I see my niggas die?” It probably would’ve been better if he said “brothers” or something. Thankfully, during the David Letterman performance he replaced that word with “people.” It’s not that big of a deal honestly. I’m sure most people don’t care. This song is absolutely dope af. 5/5

Final Thoughts:

That was pretty good. It definitely wasn’t amazing like everyone was sayin’ it was at school and on Twitter. You can’t listen to this album and then call J. Cole a bad rapper. I could see how some people might find him uninteresting, but he’s one of the few mainstream artists that actually tries. The more uptempo and energetic songs were ironically more boring to me, but even those songs weren’t that bad. The biggest problem with this album is definitely J. Cole’s singing. He’s not terrible, but he can get a little carried away sometimes. It’s great that you can hear how passionate he is, but damn. The songs that I really didn’t like weren’t even that horrible. He just didn’t rap enough. That’s the problem. He doesn’t rap enough. He’s apparently working on a joint album with Kendrick Lamar right now. What I want is more emotional songs like Be Free and u. Every song shouldn’t be like that, but I think that if they really find a topic that they’re passionate enough about they can make an amazing song. J. Cole is the same kind of artist as Kendrick. The only difference is that Kendrick seems to put more thought into what he’s saying. Love Yourz has an amazing message, but the way he discusses it just… He could’ve done better. That’s the feeling I get with pretty much every J. Cole album. You know that he can make a classic album, but for whatever reason he just hasn’t done it yet. This is still a good project tho. There were some great songs on here. He could’ve done better, but this is still dope. I fuck with this album.

Favorite Song: ’03 Adolescence

Least Favorite Song: Hello

Verdict:

71%

HOTTTTT

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