The 33-year old rapper, Jermaine Lamarr Cole, aka J. Cole, is held as one of the top three rappers alive next to giants Kendrick Lamar and Drake. With the release and overwhelming success of “2014 Forest Hills Drive” that seemed to be true — it was a masterpiece devoid of features, filled with personal stories, amazing instrumentals and memorable lyrics.
The follow up to J. Cole’s 2014 classic, “4 Your Eyez Only,” was a decent project that was less flashy but still contained quality moments such as “Déjà vu,” “Vile Mentality” and “Neighbors.” The album also contained some flops, most notably the career-long regrettable song, “Foldin Clothes,” which at its best contained a good instrumental.
But even “Foldin Clothes” is more preferable that the entirety of J. Cole’s fifth studio album, “KOD.” Released on 4/20, “KOD” is largely centered around drug use — the album cover contains a painting of J. Cole and small children who are doing anything from snorting cocaine to smoking a joint to sipping a cup full of purple liquid.
The top of the album cover reads, “This album is in no way intended to glorify addiction.” On the day before release, Cole tweeted that “KOD” stood for three things: “Kids on Drugs,” “King Overdosed” and “Kill Our Demons”.
The opening track to “KOD” titled “Intro (K.O.D)” was a hopeful start to Cole’s fifth album. Although Cole doesn’t rap on the track, it contains a smooth jazz instrumental similar to work heard on Kendrick’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” and Cole’s fourth album, “4 Your Eyez Only,” which skyrocketed my hopes for the rest of the album.
But just 13 seconds in, “KOD” left a sour taste in my mouth. With an excruciatingly annoying hook and just poor production, the song “KOD” is such a throw-away track that Cole must have been on drugs to think that it was anywhere near acceptable to put this song into the world.
On top of all of that the song’s outro is so corny: “Power, greed/Money, Molly, weed/Percs, Xannys, lean, fame/and the strongest drug of them all/Love” (insert eye roll).
Track three gets even worse. “Photograph” at best is a new look at falling in love over social media, that’s about it. Cole’s chorus is so slow that I fell asleep three times just trying to get through the song. Again, it is a throw-away track with lame beats that could’ve been made by a toddler and lyrics so one-dimensional that it makes Taylor Swift’s pop tunes look complex.
I wish I had more to say about tracks four through 11, but honestly there’s nothing to unpack, there’s nothing complex or captivating, there’s nothing of substance to keep a listener’s attention.
The album however does seem to include a bonus track titled “1985 – Intro to ‘The Fall Off’” where J. Cole at long last finds a flow which suits him. “1985” contains everything the rest of “KOD” doesn’t: interesting lyrics, a neat nostalgic beat, a solid direction for the song and passionate delivery. It’s a shame that Cole couldn’t build an album around the vibe that “1985” gives off.
High school SoundCloud rappers have made more memorable projects in their parents’ basement than J. Cole’s “KOD.”
In the long run this record is a pimple to J. Cole’s reputation set to leave a life-long scar on his face. A half-done project like “KOD” doesn’t deserve anyone’s time, let alone their money — leave this album on the store shelves and leave J. Cole on read.
Colton Newman is the photo editor and a music writer for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com or on Twitter @Coltonperson.