Since the day Born Sinner dropped one year ago I found myself in a state of dissatisfaction. Two let downs in a row tends to do that to the listener. In the aftermath, the Fayetteville phenom was relatively quiet for the remainder of the year until it was time to promote his upstart label's new mixtape.
Fast-forward to November 2014, and the news hit that Cole is dropping a brand new project with no singles or conventional promotion. A formula that had led to great success for Beyonce but yet again put the Roc Nation star on shaky ground. This risk definitely had potential pitfalls but at the end of the day it was this sense of "fuck it" that drew me in after two major let downs.
What I found was by far J.Cole's most mature and refined sounding project since Friday Night Lights. Production for the album was again handled mostly by Cole himself. The whole tracklist is crammed with lush and soulful samples that are flipped immaculately. As soon as the melancholy piano of the intro transition into January 28th it was clear that this project was nothing like it's predecessors.
There is a sense of urgency and purpose on this record that have been unmatched by anything previously released. It is apparent after listening that J.Cole is hellbent on crafting a classic album. All the material on the project was created with that goal in mind. From the coming of age storyline that revolves around Cole's childhood home, to the over-zealous outro that evokes memories of Last Call, no expense is spared here trying to achieve what many believe his peer/competitor Kendrick Lamar has done.
Unfortunately, the thought isn't all that matters here. Although the album is a very good and solid listen, that is not what a true classic is. Here again we seem to find Cole in a content drought that many of his peers have faced(a.k.a Finally Famous disorder). After getting a foot in the door by rapping about the "come up", it seems as though finding any further original content has been a trouble for Cole and others. The storyline on this particular project is great but is this coming of age tale something we already heard in Good Kid Maad City?
Jermaine Cole has given us a substantial project in a very slow and disappointing 2014. I can finally say I've lost that sense of dissatisfaction. However, I hope the victory lap on the final track doesn't distort the reality that Mr. Cole still has far to go.