Rap / Hip-Hop
Dreamville / Roc Nation / Columbia
J. Cole is a emcee that hasn’t gotten too much mainstream love ever since he started getting into the game. He has had some pretty good success with albums like Born Sinner and Cole World: The Sideline Story, but he still hasn’t fully installed himself as a household name. However, it’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, his third studio album named after his childhood home address (a house he just recently bought again), that might just put him up there with some of the greats.
2014 Forest Hills Drive is an extremely intimate album in which J. Cole examines his life as a whole, and what he has learned on his journey to stardom. The album doesn’t have any features as well. It’s all about J Cole on this one, and he takes that opportunity to take us on a lyrical journey through his life.
He starts with songs like “January 28th”, “Wet Dreamz”, “03′ Adolescence”, and “A Tale of 2 Citiez”, which document his “come up” to the rap game and how he started go get to the point where he is today. He talks a lot about his childhood life, as well as his teenage adolescent years. It’s a cool little throwback to his youth, and it sets up the second arc of his album quite well.
We then get into songs like “Fire Squad” and “St. Tropez”, where Cole starts to examine the moments where his career really started to take off. He started to become more famous, and that “Hollywood Cole” lifestyle started to consume Cole. “G.O.M.D.” is the track where the whole album takes a turn. It’s the pivotal crossroads in his story where he looks back at his past and his present, and then starts looking towards his future. In order to become the self he wants to be, he has to start looking towards his roots.
In “No Role Modelz” and “Hello”, he starts to examine his past, and he starts piecing together how he became the way he is. He starts to contemplate what he wants his future to be like, and what he needs to do to start living that life. Then, it all comes full circle with “Apparently” and “Love Yourz”. He realizes he needs to correct the mistakes he has made in his life, given the amount of people that look up to him as a role model. A much wiser cool proclaims that love, happiness, and family are what really matter in life. That is the life he wants to live.
The final song on the album, “Note to Self”, is a fourteen minute “letter” to himself, as well as his fans. He repeats that “love” is all he really needs, and that if everybody loves each other, everything will fall into place. He also takes time on the track to literally thank almost everybody that was involved with the project, including his fans. It’s a splendid conclusion to a hell of a project.
2014 Forest Hills Drive is not just an album. It’s the story of J. Cole. Cole cements himself as not just a great rapper and lyricist, but also as a fantastic story teller. The young up-and-coming rapper from Fayetteville, North Carolina has come a long way. The best way to sum up the album is like this: Picture Jay Z’s The Blueprint, which was one of his more commercially successful albums. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is J. Cole’s The Blueprint. I heard this conclusion from someone else, but I totally agree with it because it makes so much sense.
I can safely say that 2014 Forest Hills Drive has become one of my favorite albums of the year. There is just so much to it. Everything about it works so well. It’s great.