Album Review | J. Cole – Cole World: The Sideline Story

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This album was released on September 27th in 2011. This was obviously J. Cole’s first album. It’s the only one that I haven’t heard yet, and I’m pretty sure most people consider it to be his best album so far. I’ve already heard half of what’s on the standard edition, so this isn’t completely new to me. I used to consider J. Cole one of my favorite rappers, but he just isn’t as good as I want him to be. I feel like he could really be a great MC, but there’s always something that holds him back. I doubt that’ll be any different on most of this album, but I’m still looking forward to it. J. Cole may not be my favorite rapper, but I’ll always be a fan. I enjoy his music. His dickriders are annoying as hell tho. They’re always complaining about how Cole is underrated, but, if we’re being completely honest, Cole is pretty OVERrated. I’ll get into that once I’ve started the album tho. Every song is self produced, except where noted.

Track 1: Intro

This is very similar to the intro to 2014 Forest Hills Drive. The instrumental is just a few light piano keys with no percussion or anything. There’s an acoustic guitar in the background too. Cole raps a few bars instead of singing. It’s a dope way to start the album off. I really liked it when he started Forest Hills off like this, and I love it here too. I hope he does the same thing on his next album because this is dope. I’m not gonna rate it as a full song tho…

Track 2: Dollar & A Dream III (Co-Prod. The University, Canei Finch & Ron Gilmore)

Dollar & A Dream III

Hey, whatever happened to Canei Finch? I haven’t seen any placements from him in a long ass time… Anyway, this is the only installment of the Dollar & A Dream series that I’ve heard. I only ever heard the censored version for whatever reason tho, so this is kinda new to me. First of all, this beat is fucking crazy. This has always been one of my favorite J. Cole songs in terms of production. It’s perfect for the first song. Oh by the way, the way the intro transitioned into this track was really dope. The first verse was dope. The second verse is where shit gets dope af. Not only does he spit a fantastic verse, but the way the production evolves is great too. There are definitely some unforgivable lines in there tho… “You feel like you the shit, but boy, you can’t out-fart me.” You shouldn’t be putting questionable lines like that in the intro to your first album. “Sometimes I just shake my head, and tell myself ‘this is a shame‘ / And then my other side kick in like, ‘bitch, don’t be so fuckin’ lame.” I wish that other side kicked in to tell him how fuckin’ lame that line I quoted earlier was… This is still a great song tho. I definitely fuck with this shit. The beat is incredible, and the verses were great. Flawed, but still great. This is dope af. 5/5

Track 3: Can’t Get Enough Feat. Trey Songz (Prod. Brian Kidd)

Can't Get Enough 1

I’m pretty sure this was the first song I ever heard by J. Cole. My Dad was driving me to school one day and this was on the radio. I liked the song, but this was a few months before I admitted to liking Hip Hop. You gotta remember that I didn’t really get into Hip Hop until I was like 13. This album came out one month before my 13th birthday. I remember this song and Buzzin’ by Mann were played like 15 times a day back then. I didn’t know SHIT about music. I didn’t even know Trey Songz was on this song until like 5 months after I first heard it. I couldn’t tell that it was someone else singin’ the hook. That’s neither here nor there tho. The song’s starting now. Damn. It’s been a long ass time since I heard this song. This is takin’ me back to 7th grade. That’s not exactly a good thing… That’s not Cole’s fault tho, so I obviously won’t penalize the song for that. This beat is dope. I love the background vocals from the sample. How the fuck did Brian Kidd find that sample anyway? It’s dope. This song has a pretty mainstream sound, and the subject matter really isn’t for me, but I wouldn’t really say that this song was Cole selling out. It’s not really a bad song. It just has a lot of mainstream appeal. Well, it’s not really fair for me to judge whether or not this was Cole selling out since I never heard any of his older work, aside from his verse on Looking For Trouble. The hook’s pretty good. The verses weren’t great, but nothing about them was especially bad. It’s a dope song. The verses are sufficient, the hook is cool, and the beat is really good. The subject matter isn’t very appealing to me personally, but this song is good enough sonically for me to enjoy it. This is dope. 4/5

Track 4: Lights Please

Lights Please

Oh shit, I guess I was lying when I said that I hadn’t heard any of Cole’s earlier work. This song came out in 2009; it originally appeared on The Warm Up, which was Cole’s second mixtape. This is actually the song that JAY-Z heard that made him wanna sign J. Cole, so I guess that’s why Cole wanted to put it on this album. Not a great decision tho. Your fans aren’t gonna wanna hear the same shit they’ve been playin’ for 2 years already. I guess it’s not that big of a deal, but if I was a J. Cole stan I would’ve been a little annoyed. This would be the part of the album that I’d skip. Anyway, it’s starting now. Huh. This is probably just me not knowing what the motherfuck I’m talkin’ about, but it kinda sounds like they redid the beat for the album. It sounds like they added more instruments or something. Nah… J. Cole produced this by himself. I’m pretty sure that’s a sample anyway. Ignore everything I just said. It’s the same beat. It’s dope tho. It’s a great beat. Both of the two verses were really dope. He was basically just rappin’ about how he gets distracted from important, deep shit by some girl who always wants to fuck. The way he raps makes it seem like it’s deeper than it really is. He did a good job with it tho. “Niggas blame hoes for givin’ birth / To a baby that took two to make; coward nigga, you a fake / How you gonna look in your son’s face, and turn your back / Then go start another family, dawg / What type of shit is that?” The hook is really dope too. I fuck with this song. I’m not blown away by this song like JAY-Z apparently was. I still probably would’ve signed him if I heard this too tho. It’s not like it’s not a good song. I’m just not amazed. It’s dope tho. 4/5

Track 5: Interlude

This is just J. Cole tellin’ the people at his barbershop—I don’t know if it’s actually at a barbershop; that’s just an assumption—about the night he found out that JAY-Z was gonna sign him. He apparently got arrested that night and spent a day in jail. That’s interesting. I guess.

Track 6: Sideline Story

Cole World - The Sideline Story 9

This is the first song on this album that I haven’t already heard before. This beat is pretty good. The first verse was dope. I liked the second verse a lot more tho. The part about the white man seeing him in 1st class was great. The hook is pretty good. Cole’s singing is a little rough, but it’s never bad enough to really hurt the song that much. The third verse was dope af. This song doesn’t have the catchiest hook, or the most attention grabbing beat, but it’s still really good. I actually really fuck with this song. The verses were great. This is dope af to me. 5/5

Track 7: Mr. Nice Watch Feat. JAY-Z

Mr. Nice Watch

This beat is alright. It sounds really trendy. This is the most braggadocios song I’ve ever heard from J. Cole. “No more Mr. Nice Guy / Hello, Mr. Nice Watch.” The first verse was cool. There are some questionable lines in the second verse tho… “Cole World, but I’m hot as shit, do that mean that I’m bipolar?” He keeps replacing the word “cold” with his own name. Does he think that’s clever? It’s not. I’m glad he doesn’t do that shit as much these days. I’m really not feelin’ this hook. Jay’s verse was actually decent. I’m not the biggest JAY-Z fan tho, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I didn’t really enjoy his verse that much. I don’t know if I’d wanna listen to this song again… It doesn’t have that much replay value. It’s not a good song… I don’t think the verses are terrible, but they just weren’t that good. I’d be lying if I said I liked this. It’s just not very believable when J. Cole tries to do a song with him. This is so out of character for him; it just feels like he’s trying to be Kanye. I’m not really feelin’ this song. This is wack to me. 2/5

Track 8: Cole World

Cole World

This is another song that I’ve already heard. The beat is dope af. The first verse was really dope too. There’s not really anything I don’t like about this song, aside from him replacing the word “cold” with his own name again. He does that more on this track than any other track I’ve heard. “Cole world / Cole life / Cole blooded.” It’s not that big of a deal tho. I wouldn’t penalize this song for something small like that. The hook is dope af. The second verse was dope af too. “Rappers show me love; I wonder what it could be / I think they scared of me, and they should be.” This song is dope af. The verses, hook, and beat are all great. I have no complaints. 5/5

Track 9: In The Morning Feat. Drake (Prod. L&X Music)

In The Morning.jpg

I’ve heard this song before too. It was already a year old when this album dropped. It originally appeared on Friday Night Lights. The beat is dope af. I’ve always loved this beat. This kinda reminds me of Poetic Justice by Kendrick Lamar. It’s the love song with Drake. This song is more about sex than actually being in love, but it’s not too different. The subject matter isn’t really for me, but I think Cole did a good job with the first verse. The hook is alright. I cannot take Drake’s verse. This might actually be one of the softest Drake verses I’ve ever heard in my life. It would’ve been bad enough even if he wasn’t rapping like he was speaking right in my fuckin’ ear. I’m so uncomfortable. “I’m tryna make the goose bumps on your inner thigh show.” That is the most emasculating line I have ever heard in a Hip Hop song. Drake’s verse is way too soft for me. I wasn’t feelin’ it at all. “I got bath water that you can soak in / Things I could do with lotion / Don’t need a towel, we could dry off in the covers.” Nah. His verse is wack af to me. Cole’s third verse wasn’t bad. Nah… I really wish that I liked this song more than I actually do. That Drake verse really ruined it for me tho. If I’m gonna listen to this song, it’s gotta be the version without Drake. This is just decent with him tho. 3/5

Track 10: Lost Ones

Lost Ones

This is another song that I’ve already heard before. I’m just gon’ tell y’all right now that it’s dope af. This is what I was talking about when I called J. Cole overrated. People treat him like all of his songs are as good as this. This was only one song tho. Most of his other shit is just good. Not great. If he rapped like this more often then he probably would be one of my favorite rappers again. The first verse was already really good, but that second verse was dope af. He killed that shit. It was impressive. It was different. It was bold. You don’t see a lot of other MCs tackling a subject like this, and you definitely don’t see any of them rapping from the perspective of a woman. Maybe I should explain what this song actually is to the people who haven’t heard it yet. So, the first verse is J. Cole rapping from the perspective of a guy who got this girl pregnant. He’s speaking directly to her, and telling her to consider abortion. “Think about it, baby, me and you, we still kids ourself / How we gonna raise a kid by ourself? / Handle biz by ourself? / A nigga barely over 20 / Where the hell we gon’ live? Where am I gon’ get that money?” Needless to say, the girl he was talkin’ to didn’t take it very well. “She said ‘Nigga, you got some nerve to come up to me talking about abortion / This my body, nigga, so don’t think you finna force shit.” It would’ve been dope even if Cole didn’t do this, but he even changed his delivery to make himself sound angrier, and more feminine too. The second verse is amazing. This is the J. Cole I’d be willing to say is an appropriately rated MC. He doesn’t rap this well often enough tho. He killed this shit. The beat and hook are perfect for this song. I also think the placement of this track after In The Mornin’ is really interesting too. It’s like this is what happened with the couple from that song a few months later. I definitely fuck with this track. This is dope af. 5/5

Track 11: Nobody’s Perfect Feat. Missy Elliott

Nobody's Perfect

This beat is dope. I’ve already heard this song before. The first verse is dope. Missy Elliott did a really great job with the hook too. I think it would’ve been cool if she had a verse, but I’m not really that disappointed that she didn’t. The second verse was good. That’s it. The song’s over. I don’t even really have anything to say about this one. I enjoyed it. The verses were cool, the beat was nice, and the hook from Missy Elliott was dope. There’s not much else to say about the song. I enjoyed it tho. It’s dope. 4/5

Track 12: Never Told (Prod. No I.D.)

The first verse just ended. I definitely fuck with this lyrically, and the beat’s pretty dope. I’m not in love with Cole’s flow & delivery on the first verse tho. Hopefully he’ll switch that up for the second verse. In terms of the subject matter and lyrics, this is kinda like J. Cole’s version of Poppa Was A Playa. Thankfully it isn’t ruined by an atrocious hook. It’s not really about Cole’s dad tho. It’s more about men in general. The second verse has the same flow as the first one, and it gets old REAL quick. I still fuck with the song tho. The lyrics and beat are good. The repetitive flow isn’t enough for me to dislike this song. It definitely lowers the replay value tho. 4/5

Track 13: Rise & Shine

This beat is alright. The first verse was dope. The second verse was even better. The third verse is dope af. Damn. Cole actually killed this shit. I’m not super impressed by the beat, but Cole was actually rapping really well on this track. He needs to rhyme more aggressively like this more often. There’s not really much else to say about this one. It’s just Cole spittin’ three great verses over a decent beat. Fuck. Should I call this dope or dope af? The beat wasn’t that great… Eh… If I’m being honest I probably won’t come back to this that often just because of the lackluster beat. It’s still a really good song tho. I fuck with this. It’s dope. 4/5

Track 14: God’s Gift

This beat is dope. “Bundle up; it’s gon’ be a Cole ass summer.” …Oh God… That’s one of the first lines in the whole song. The whole first verse isn’t as bad as that tho. It’s a decent verse. Ehhh… I don’t know about this hook. It’s not terrible, but it’s really not that good. I’m also not feelin’ that electric guitar in the background. The second verse started out pretty goddamn rough, but it got better towards the end. “Every verse I spit it just like it could be my last one.” It really doesn’t seem like it tho… I’m not really feelin’ this song. I don’t really think it’s a bad song, but I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it personally. The beat was cool until the electric guitar came in. I really don’t like electric guitars… Also, the verses were pretty shaky. There were bars that I liked, but there was a lot of wack lines in there too. It’s not a bad song. I just didn’t really enjoy it that much. It’s alright tho. 3/5

Track 15: Breakdown

This beat’s pretty dope. Oh, shit…

That's sad…

Why you only call monthly? / Barely ever saw me / Spend some summers with you, and played with my cousin Maury / Maybe I should be telling you fuck you ’cause you selfish / But I want a father so bad, I can’t help but break down.” Cole’s obviously goin’ in about his father who was never there. This is probably the most emotional song on the whole album aside from Lost Ones. Oh the whole song isn’t about that. He’s just talkin’ about a bunch of fucked up shit in his life, like his mother’s drug addiction. I can’t really say anything negative about this song. It doesn’t have a catchy hook, but it really doesn’t need one. This is dope af. 5/5

Track 16: Work Out

Work Out.jpg

This is the final song from the standard edition of the album. I’ve already heard it before. It was Cole’s breakout single. I don’t really like it tho. This is the song that made people afraid that J. Cole was gonna sell out. The beat’s really dope. He sampled Kanye’s New Workout Plan. The beat’s great. The melody of the hook’s pretty catchy too. That’s the only positive thing I can say tho. I completely understand why Cole’s day 1 fans were worried after hearing this shit. “Let me see you get high, then go low / Now, girl won’t you drop that thing down to the floor?” Cole was becoming known as the mainstream rapper who could actually rap, so seeing him make a trendy dance record like this must’ve been pretty devastating. Lyrically, this song is completely uninteresting and mundane. I didn’t even think this song was that bad until he started interpolating a fucking Paula Abdul song. Really, Cole? You’re supposed to be the one bringing lyricism to the radio, and you decide to sing fuckin’ Paula Abdul? Fuck that shit. That’s one of the corniest things Cole has ever done. Nah. I’m not feelin’ this song. This is wack. 2/5

Track 17: Who Dat (Co-Prod. Elite)

Who Dat.jpg

This was the first single for this album. It was pretty unsuccessful tho. I’m finna try and find out why. Alright, it’s starting now. This beat is pretty dope. The first verse was dope af. The hook is pretty good too. I think I already understand why it wasn’t that successful tho. It’s very different from Work Out. It doesn’t have that trendy, melodic sound that Work Out has. He’s not rapping about girls either. I don’t know why, but corny shit about girls always makes it onto the radio. Goddamn. Cole killed that second verse. “Hungry like the nigga who ain’t got the taste of fame yet / Clown told me, ‘Ain’t you Roc? But where the fuck your chain at?‘ / Guess it’s something like your girl, nigga, it ain’t came yet.” Damn. This is actually a really good song. This is better than a lot of the songs that were on the standard edition of the album. I can see why it wasn’t there tho. It doesn’t really fit in with the other tracks. It doesn’t give off that somber vibe. Although, to be fair, Mr. Nice Watch didn’t really seem to fit that well either. This song should’ve been where Mr. Nice Watch is. I get that he wanted to have JAY-Z on the album tho. Maybe he should’ve gotten Jay for a remix of this song. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. I fuck with this song. This is dope af. 5/5

Track 18: Daddy’s Little Girl

This beat is dope af. This song sounds like it’s about the same girl who was in Lights Please. I’m kinda getting some slightly misogynistic vibes, but it’s not too bad. I guess. It just ended. It was pretty good. I’m not in love with it, but the beat was great, and the hook was really catchy. Should I explain why this is misogynistic? I shouldn’t have to… It’s a double standard. I shouldn’t have to point that out. He’s sayin’ that this girl is goin’ down the wrong path by having lots of casual sex. J. Cole brags a lot about having sex on this album tho. He also talks about how she smokes weed and gets drunk. Again, men brag about doing these things all the time. So yeah. That kinda rubbed me the wrong way. I fuck with this sonically tho. It’s dope. 4/5

Track +: The Return Of Simba

The Return Of Simba

This track was released on May 22nd in 2011. It’s the final entry in his “Simba” series of songs. The first two were Simba, which was on The Come Up, and Grown Simba, which was on The Warm Up. I never heard either of those songs, but this song right here is dope af. That beat is crazy. Cole went nuts on this shit too. That’s really all I need to say. This is pretty much the perfect prequel to Cole’s career as a mainstream MC. I love how he starts this shit off by sayin’ “Hov asked me, ‘Is you ready for it?‘ / I looked around at all his nice things / Told him, ‘Nigga, you already know it,” and then the beat drops right after that. This shit is so fuckin’ dope. I STILL don’t think I’ve ever heard Cole rap this well since this song came out. I mean, there are a couple bars in there that make me roll my eyes—for example: “Watch my flow go bananas; I’m a lil gorilla“—but everything else about this song makes up for it. Cole snapped on this shit. This song is dope af. 5/5

Final Thoughts:

This album is great. This is definitely my favorite album of his so far. I really hope it doesn’t stay that way tho. I know Cole can do better than this. It’s a really dope album tho. The production was pretty solid for the most part. I think it was a LITTLE too long for my liking, but it’s not like the music was bad. There are only a few songs on here that I didn’t like. Cole is a great rapper. Still tho… It’s just not good enough. He can do better. Listening to this just made me anxious to hear a new album from him. I want him to come out with his best album. I still think that that hasn’t happened yet. I don’t think he peaked yet. Forest Hills was good. His next album needs to be better. I mean, it doesn’t NEED to be better; I’ll still be a fan if it isn’t. I just feel like he hasn’t given us his best work yet. I can’t really say that there are any consistent flaws with this album. He just didn’t snap the way I wanted him to on every track. It’s still a great project tho. I fuck with this album. It’s dope.

Favorite Song: Dollar & A Dream III

Least Favorite Song: Mr. Nice Watch




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