Cole brings full surprise from his new album

Brooklyn Raines, Features Editor

No singles were released for this album, no songs for the radio stations to spin.  Just music, inspiration and personal glimpses into J. Cole’s life.

Rapper and producer, J. Cole released his third studio album, “2014 Forest Hill Drive” yesterday. Cole took a risk with this album, by not releasing a debut single to promote the album, like he did with his two prior number one albums, “The Sideline Story” and “Born Sinner.” This approach really forced listeners to just pick up the album and start listening, listeners do not get a preview or even hint of what they can expect.They are just left with the cover art of Cole sitting on a rooftop non-chantilly, feet dangling from his childhood home.

“2014 Forest Hill Drive” is not only the name of Cole’s third studio album, but also the address Cole grew up in with his mom and stepfather. The 13 track album takes listeners on a journey to some of Cole’s experiences in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina.

As the intro kicks in, horns and a light piano smoothly compliment Cole’s raspy voice. He repetitively ask the questions “do you want to be happy?” and “do you want to be free?” Cole speaks on dreams and the true meaning of freedom as other voices lightly scatter in the background, giving off the feel he’s in a busy city, maybe New York, the city where Cole was discovered by Jay-Z. Track one, the intro is soothing and shows Cole’s introspective side, a side that has gained him many fans and listeners over the years.

Track two, January 28th, comes in just as smoothly. The vibe of the track makes me feel like I’m in an intimate jazz concert in the city. Cole raises social questions concerning the males in the black community and delivers some of my favorite lyrics of the album when he says “I turn on the TV not one hero in sight, unless he dribbles or fiddles with the mic.”

The uphill momentum of the album continues with the tracks “Wet Dreamz” and “03’ Adolescence.” On the track “Wet Dreamz” the production switches up to an upbeat tempo and Cole tells a vivid story about a lie he tells that puts him in a situation he hasn’t been in before. Track four “03’ Adolescence” shows Cole in a vulnerable light, where Cole channels a childhood friend of his and recaps a conversation they had that altered the rest of Cole’s life and made him more grateful.

The middle section of the album takes on a different feel, with a darker feel and production. With track five and six with more hidden messages that don’t come to mind with just one listen. Track six, “Fire Squad” being a likeable track but for the most part forgettable other than the crack on Iggy Azalea. The end of track six even reminds me of a TDE production. “St. Tropez” and “G.O.M.D” follow with “St.Tropez” containing a corny chorus and being very forgettable after I pass the track. “G.O.M.D” gives off an aggressive feel with a blend of a trap influenced beats. The hidden message within the song is thought provoking and the parody chorus has to be understood to understand the message.

The last five tracks of the album are rewarding. The later half of the album is kicked off with the track “No Role Modelz” that talks about the questionable girls that come with the music industry and the intentions of girls that are around rappers. With a catchy chorus, strong message and George Bush snippet, it turns out to be one of my favorite tracks.  The remaining four tracks bring out insightful Cole as he talks about love an old love, suppression and confidence.

As a whole, “2014 Forest Hill Drive” was a strong album. It contained the insightful Cole that speaks on social issues and not the typical topics that rappers on the radio discuss. Yes, the middle of the album was weaker than the beginning and the end, but not to the point where I did not like the album as a whole. With this album, Cole sets himself apart from other rappers with his versatility and personal appeal. Cole can add this album into his repertoire of classics.