Tag Archives: J Cole

My Top 10 Albums of 2015

This year’s top ten album list was a little bit of a surprise to me.  If you don’t know already, I am a pretty big fan of rap music which means that most of the music I listen to during the year tends to be rap and hip-hop.  In turn, this leads to top ten lists that are mostly comprised of rap albums.  This year was a little different.  This year’s list, although still mostly rap, branched out a bit and brings some diversity to the table.  As usual, I should note that this list is my top ten albums that I listened to this year and is not indicative of the all the albums that came out in 2015.  The simple fact is there was a lot of music that came out this year and sometimes I didn’t have the time to listen all of it.  I can’t speak for albums that I haven’t listened to so I wouldn’t feel right putting them on my list, regardless of their critical reception.  With that out of the way, let’s get to the list…

Honorable Mentions: Mr. Wonderful – Action Bronson, Ludaversal – Ludacris, Everything Is 4 – Jason Derulo, Revenge of the Dreamers II – J. Cole and Dreamville Records


10. Title – Meghan Trainor

title cover
via Idolator

The world was introduced to Meghan Trainor in 2014 but we didn’t get her debut album until 2015.  Title is a strong debut for one of the more trending pop artists of 2015.  Not only does it include “All About That Bass,” the song that put her on the map, but it also includes lesser known tracks like the album’s intro “The Best Part” and the fun “Walkashame.”  Not to forget, the album also contains “Lips Are Movin” and “Dear Future Husband,” two of her other more popular songs.  The album has a diverse sound and there is a lot to like about it.


9. Dark Sky Paradise – Big Sean

dark sky paradise
via Idolator

For his third studio album, Big Sean reflects on his life and gets a little introspective.  It’s a change of pace when compared to the rapper’s previous albums and this change works really well.  Dark Sky Paradise was also largely produced by Kanye West, a.k.a. the album has a great sound as well.  You are already familiar with “I Don’t F*** With You,” one of the album’s premiere tracks, but the atmospheric and deep “Blessings” is another song that deserves a listen.  The album also has a strong introduction with “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers),” where he reflects on some of the past decisions that he has made in his life.  “One Man Can Change the World” proves that Big Sean opens up big time on his album, making it a necessary album on Sean’s discography.


8. GO:OD AM – Mac Miller

good am cover
via Idolator

Mac Miller’s career trajectory has been a little hard to predict.  He started off small with his release of Blue Slide Park and then moved to bigger and better (and profoundly different) things with Watching Movies with the Sound Off.  With his latest release, GO:OD AM, Mac seems to have dipped a little bit in terms of mainstream recognition, but certainly not in quality.  This also marks his first major label debut. GO:OD AM is a nice collection of tracks that mix some of the “trippy” Mac with his older sound.  “100 Grandkids” is the song that I point to because it is a good representation of what you are going to get with the album.  Other standouts include “Brand Name,” “Rush Hour,” and “Weekend” featuring R&B superstar Miguel.


7. At.Long.Last.A$AP – A$AP Rocky

at long last asap cover
via Idolator

2015 treated rapper A$AP Rocky pretty well…for the most part.  The death of Rocky’s good friend A$AP Yams was a punch to the gut, but he seems to be doing pretty well with a starring role in Dope and a great album with At.Long.Last.A$AP.  His sophomore album not only shows off the rapper’s talent, but it also acts as a dedication to his late friend Yams.  The album kicks off with the deeply meditative “Holy Ghost” but then moves on to the trip-fest that is “L$D.”  The album also contains “Everyday,” a collaboration between Rocky, Mark Ronson, Miguel, and Rod Stewart.  Yep, you heard that right.  A$AP Rocky was not afraid to experiment with different sounds and feels on the album, making it a unique experience.  Finally, the project wraps up with a touching tribute to A$AP Yams.  It wasn’t the best track on the album, but the energy was there.


6. Beauty Behind the Madness – The Weeknd

beauty behind the madness coverI will never stop being fascinated with The Weeknd’s voice.  It’s the single aspect that got me instantly hooked when I listened to his indie project Kiss Land.  For a time, The Weeknd was mostly underground, shying away from the mainstream light.  Beauty Behind the Madness is the artist’s first foray into the mainstream light, and he handles himself pretty well.  There’s a little bit of everything on the album to cater to a lot of tastes.  “Can’t Feel My Face” harnesses a strong Michael Jackson influence to cater to the masses while songs like “Often” and “The Hills” harken back to the artist’s previously dark sounds.  The album gave us the best of both worlds on top of some of the year’s best production.  All The Weeknd needs to do is just keep being himself and all will be good.


5. Tetsuo & Youth – Lupe Fiasco

tetsuo & youth cover
via Idolator

You’re probably looking at this album and probably wondering where the hell it came from.  I am going to go ahead and declare that Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo & Youth was the most underrated rap album of 2015.  I consider Tetsuo & Youth a smart man’s rap album.  There is everything from instrumental melodies to nine minute masterpieces.  Lupe also tackles topics like religion in tracks like “Madonna” and “Adoration of the Magi.”  The album’s best track is “Prisoner 1 & 2” which provides a unique perspective on incarceration and racial profiling.  These aren’t the only hot button issues that the album takes on either.  There is a lot to Tetsuo & Youth and it all comes together in a well-rounded package.  The album came out pretty early in the year and I knew the second after I finished listening to it that it was going to make it on this list.


4. Summertime ’06 – Vince Staples

summertime 06 cover
via Idolator

When I think about it, this might be the second most underrated album of 2015, although it gained wider mainstream acceptance due to word of mouth.  Vince Staples’ debut project is an interesting one because it is rooted in a story.  Over the course of the album, the rapper goes into the summer of 2006, a season that really changed him as a person.  Similar to some of the other albums on the list, Summertime ’06 is a reflective experience.  “Life Me Up” and “Birds & Bees” are great examples of the rapper opening up about his childhood and his life growing up on the North Side of Long Beach.  The double album has a cohesive theme that sticks the whole way through.  Summertime ’06 came out of nowhere for me and now I am looking forward to what is to come from Vince Staples.


3. Compton: The Soundtrack – Dr. Dre

compton cover
via Idolator

Who said the old man couldn’t hang out with the new guys?  Dr. Dre, who hasn’t released an album in almost sixteen years, proves with Compton that he hasn’t missed a beat.  Compton came out around the same time as the movie Straight Outta Compton, which really boosted the rapper’s resurgence in 2015.  The longtime producer was dormant for the longest time but he comes back with an energy uncontested by many.  Dre pays homage to his past with tracks like “Genocide” and “It’s All On Me” while at the same time looking where he has come since then in tracks like “Talking to my Diary.”  There is a lot of Dre on the album but there is also a bunch of guest features including the likes of King Mez, Justus, and Candice Pillay.  There is also a good bit of familiar voices like Eazy-E, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg that lead to some great collaborations as well.  The album has the old school Dr. Dre sound with a modern feel.  This could be the rapper’s last album, but what a way to shut it down.


2. Our Own House – Misterwives

misterwives 2What!?  An indie pop album from a New York based band as my second best album of 2015?  This was exactly the way I felt when giving this album a comfy spot high on the list.  My fascination with Misterwives’ music started with a free download of their song “Our Own House,” which later led to my purchase of the entire album.  It’s a really fun and energetic album.  “Reflection” and “Best I Can Do” are great examples of the energy that I am talking about.  The album goes to some deep places as well with “Oceans” and “Coffins.”  The group is super talented, fusing the fantastic voice of lead singer Mandy Lee with a mix of different instruments, yielding a final product that is unlike anything else on this list.  The album really resonated with me, making it perhaps my biggest surprise discovery of 2015.  The album is also great for blasting on long drives.  Trust me, it has happened.


1. To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

tpab cover
via Idolator

It’s almost like Kendrick Lamar can do no wrong, right?  Kendrick is probably one of rap’s hottest commodities, having himself one of the best years he has had in a while.  It wasn’t going to be easy to top his previous album good kid, m.A.A.d. city but he did it.  He topped that album with To Pimp a Butterfly.  What an album.  Kendrick Lamar is one of the best lyricists in the game right now with a deep talent for storytelling.  Almost every song on the album is phenomenal, with standouts like “King Kunta,” “Alright,” “How Much a Dollar Cost,” and “The Blacker the Berry.”  Kendrick also dives into a bunch of cultural and social issues that have taken hold of our current society, making it one of the most relevant albums of the year as well.  I’m pretty confident in saying that this relevance won’t just stay in 2015 either.  I’m not lying when I say that this is an album that is going to be talked about years from now as one of the greats.  Yeah, the album is that good.  You should probably listen to it.

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Review: Revenge of the Dreamers II

rotd2 coverRevenge of the Dreamers II (2015)

Various Artists

Rap / Hip-Hop

Dreamville / Interscope


This was the tweet that was sent out on the eve of December 6th by J. Cole and the rest of his Dreamville label.  It would take an attentive listener to realize that this same number was used in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers mixtape, the label’s debut showcase.  As any curious soul would do, fans started to call that number and to their surprise, J. Cole and the rest of the group was on the other line.  They took time to talk to fans and announce that Revenge of the Dreamers II was a thing and that it was coming out soon.  What a neat way to announce an album.

rotd2 1
via 1019 Online

Unlike their previous mixtape, RotD II is a studio album, propelling the label into the mainstream.  J. Cole, the labels creator, has already established himself as a bona-fide rapper in the mainstream space but the rest of his label signees have something to prove, which is the resounding theme of the album.  If you want to soak in some inspiration and motivation to do something with your life, this album should be right up your alley.

J. Cole’s presence on the project is sparse, which is how it should be. He appears on the album’s intro track, “Folgers Crystals,” as well as “Night Job,” featuring label mate Bas.  His stand out track is “Caged Bird,” a deep seeded reference to the poet Maya Angelou’s I Know Where the Caged Bird Sings.  The autobiography details Angelou’s life and what it was like to deal with adversity and hate for being black in America.  J. Cole relates to her situation and raps about that kind of adversity that he has to face being a black man this day and age.  It’s a concept that we have heard from a bunch of different rappers before but Cole’s “Caged Bird” is a meaningful and thought provoking track that makes it a standout.

rotd2 2
via Global Grind

Some other notable rappers that appear on the album are Cozz and Omen.  Fans of the label’s previous project should recognize these guys but they have changed since you first heard them.  Cozz has probably demonstrated the most growth, and that change is extremely evident when you listen to the album’s finale “Grow,” my favorite song off the album.  Cozz puts it all out on the mic as he raps about his own career and his personal growth into the guy that he is today.  It’s a raw and heartfelt track, laced with a fantastic hook from Correy C.  “48 Laws” is Omen’s best track on the album, fusing an old-school hip-hop sound with some great back-up instrumentals from the one and only Donnie Trumpet.  Although it’s too short, Donnie’s solo at the end is treat.

But hey, let’s talk about the newcomers because that’s what this kind of album is all about right?  Almost everyone from the original tape makes an appearance on the track list but two new signees make their mainstream debut; singer Ari Lennox and North Carolina rapper Lute.  Lennox gives us some staggeringly smooth vocals on her collaboration with Cozz “Backseat,” making the act of backseat sex more sophisticated and tranquil than it actually is.  On the other hand, Lute demonstrates his flow on “Still Slummin’,” a solid debut for the rapper.  With some time, I can envision him honing his skills and making a name for himself.

rotd2 3

Motivation and rising above the hate are the two steadfast themes that can be found throughout the album, making it surprising and almost jolting when a song like “Tabs” makes it onto the project.  Cozz has some fantastic offering on the album but his less than meaningful and paint-by-the-numbers song about leaving his love interests and side chicks behind is the worst song on the album.  It just doesn’t click with the album’s mantra and style, making it unnecessary to the final product.  Maybe if there was a little more thought put into the song I could have overlooked it, but it’s pretty inexcusable.

Dreamville’s initial mixtape was alright on its own but Revenge of the Dreamers II blows it out of the water in terms of quality.  Is this really surprising though?  A lot of the guys from the label are slowly starting to prove their skills and make a name for themselves.  J. Cole has done some great work in rounding up the team that is Dreamville.  This is a great showcase of the label’s talent and it should serve as a great playlist for anybody that has any sort of aspiration.  Literally, any aspiration.  Just put this album on and you’ll go places.

rotd2 score

2016 Grammy Predictions

It’s that time of year again.  The nominees for the 58th Grammys were announced this Monday, which opened up the discussion on which artist had the best album/song and why they should win in their respective categories.  At some point or another you begin to hear the case for every nominee, which makes speculation a lot of fun.  With that being said, I am going to add my two cents into the fray on who I think will take away the awards music’s biggest night.

2016 grammys kendrick
via Urban Islandz

The Grammy nominations were almost dominated by Kendrick Lamar, which was quite a surprise considering the years that other artists have had.  However, Kendrick Lamar more than deserves these awards and I actually think he will take home a good haul on Feb. 15.  The two other artists that gained a good number of nods are Taylor Swift and The Weeknd.  No surprise there.  One glaring omission is Adele but hey, that’s just a by-product of how the Grammys work.  Just wait till next year, where she will most likely top the nominations list and take home a car full of awards.

Let’s get into the four major fields…

*Predicted winners denoted with ‘(Winner)’


Record Of The Year

“Really Love” — D’Angelo And The Vanguard

“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars (Winner)

“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran

“Blank Space” — Taylor Swift

“Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weeknd

2016 grammys uptown funk
via MCM

There’s a lot of pretty great songs here, but “Uptown Funk” is almost a sure-fire lock.  It was the song that took the radio by storm and dominated the airwaves for most of the summer.  At this point it has been over played, but maybe there’s a reason for that?


Album Of The Year

Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes

To Pimp A Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar

Traveller — Chris Stapleton

1989 — Taylor Swift (Winner)

Beauty Behind The Madness — The Weeknd

2016 grammys 1989

This is a tough category.  All of these albums are pretty great and have wide range in terms of style and sound.  My personal favorite album of the year is To Pimp A Butterfly but it’s hard to deny the kind of year that Taylor Swift has had.  Swift pretty much stole the summer with her massive 1989 tour and her album of the same name is just as great.  Her year is going to be topped off in the best way possible, a Grammy.


Song Of The Year

“Alright” — Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears & Pharrell Williams, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar)

“Blank Space” — Max Martin, Shellback & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)

“Girl Crush” — Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, songwriters (Little Big Town)

“See You Again” — Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth & Cameron Thomaz, songwriters (Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth) (Winner)

“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran & Amy Wadge, songwriters (Ed Sheeran)

2016 grammys see you again
via Billboard

Once again, this is another category that made me stop and really think.  “See You Again” serves as the theme song (of sorts) for Fast and Furious 7, paying homage to the late Paul Walker who died due to a fatal car accident.  Wiz Khalifa and the super talented Charlie Puth have given fans what they wanted and more.  You don’t even have to be a Fast and Furious fan to have an appreciation for their song.


Best New Artist

Courtney Barnett

James Bay

Sam Hunt

Tori Kelly

Meghan Trainor (Winner)

2016 grammys meghan trainor
via VIP Seats

The Best New Artist category is always a slightly entertaining category for me.  Because of the Grammys and their weird timing schedule, by the time the nominations are announced, the nominees for this award are not really “new” anymore.  When looking at these artists, Meghan Trainor stood out to me the most.  Title was a great debut album and she is generally just a likable person.  I think the voters will agree. However, Tori Kelly is a close second.

As for some of the other categories…


Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

“Ship To Wreck” by Florence & The Machine

“Sugar” by Maroon 5

“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars (Winner)

“Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift Featuring Kendrick Lamar

“See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth


Best Dance Recording

“We’re All We Need” by Above & Beyond Featuring Zoë Johnston

“Go” by the Chemical Brothers

“Never Catch Me” by Flying Lotus Featuring Kendrick Lamar

“Runaway (U & I)” by Galantis (Winner)

“Where Are Ü Now” by Skrillex And Diplo With Justin Bieber


Best Rock Performance

“Don’t Wanna Fight” by Alabama Shakes

“What Kind Of Man” by Florence & The Machine

“Something From Nothing” by Foo Fighters (Winner)

“Ex’s & Oh’s” by Elle King

“Moaning Lisa Smile” by Wolf Alice


Best Alternative Music Album

Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes (Winner)

Vulnicura by Björk

The Waterfall by My Morning Jacket

Currents by Tame Impala

Star Wars by Wilco


Best Rap Album

2014 Forest Hills Drive by J. Cole

Compton by Dr. Dre

If Youre Reading This Its Too Late by Drake

To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar (Winner)

The Pinkprint by Nicki Minaj


Best Urban Contemporary Album

Ego Death by the Internet

You Should Be Here by Kehlani

Blood by Lianne La Havas

Wildheart by Miguel

Beauty Behind The Madness by The Weeknd (Winner)


Best Country Album

Montevallo by Sam Hunt

Pain Killer by Little Big Town

The Blade by Ashley Monroe

Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves

Traveller by Chris Stapleton (Winner)


The best part about making these kinds of predictions is that they will most likely be totally wrong and someone you would never have expected will win the awards.  There was a lot of tough categories this year so I could see some of them going either way.  (Yeah, looking at the Best Rap Album was a doozy)  It’s going to be a fun night and I am pretty confident in one prediction: there’s going to be a lot of happy fans and mad fans.

2014 Album of the Year

It’s been a pretty good year for music.  I would have to argue that last year was probably better in terms of releases, but 2014 started to get much stronger as the year went on, especially as it was coming to a close.  There were some great albums (many that made it to the top of the list) that came out pretty late into the year.  I should  preface this by saying that my musical tastes lie in the hip-hop and pop realm.  With that being said, there were some great albums that came out, but I just wasn’t in to them.  Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran had a great year (thus their Grammy nominations).

Now, here are my top ten albums that came out this year…

10. While (1<2) – Deadmau5

2014 album of the year whileDeadmau5 has always been an innovator when it comes to electronic music.  All you have to do is follow him on social media to figure that out.  While (1<2) is no different when it comes to innovation.  There is a wide range of sounds on this one and I couldn’t stop myself from tapping to the beat on pretty much all of them.  If you are an electronic music fan, you should definitely give one of the best electronic albums of the year a listen…but I probably didn’t have to tell you that.


9. Mastermind – Rick Ross

2014 album of the year mastermindIt’s been a busy year for Rick Ross, the only artist on this list to release to albums in one year.  His second album, Hood Billionaire, was a little iffy and could have used a little more time, but I’m here to talk about his superior album of the two, Mastermind.  The album contained hits like “War Ready” featuring Jeezy and “Vein” featuring The Weeknd.  Not to mention Rick Ross teamed up with Jay Z with the song “The Devil Is A Lie”, which received a lot of critical praise.  Rick Ross is a powerhouse, and Mastermind displayed this fact brilliantly.


8. Broke With Expensive Taste – Azealia Banks

2014 album of the year brokeThis was an album that flew quietly under a lot of people’s radars.  After a long wait, Azealia Banks released Broke With Expensive Taste to quite a lot of critical praise.  Azealia Banks isn’t really a household name, but she deserves to be.  The album contained a lot of different and unique sounds that made it different from the rest.  With songs like “Chasing Time” and “Desperado”, I couldn’t get the album out of my head.  This album was probably my surprise of the year.  I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it delivered.


7. My Everything – Ariana Grande

2014 album of the year everythingAriana Grande has had a big year, and part of it was because of her latest release My Everything.  It’s hard to argue with the talent that the young singer has.  Her vocal range is enormous and it’s possible that she could become the next Mariah Carey.  The album contained hits like the summer sensation “Problem”, the energetic “Break Free” and the deep, yet sensual “Love Me Harder” featuring the talented The Weeknd.  There is a tone of great songs on the album, making it one of my top pop albums of the year.  (Sorry Taylor Swift)


6. The Pinkprint – Nicki Minaj

2014 album of the year pinkprintNicki Minaj is slowly turning into a feminine hip-hop powerhouse.  She also had a fantastic year, topped by the release of The Pinkprint, which features the strongest Nicki Minaj yet.  The album contains so many different genres, all in one complete package.  There’s some rap that hearkens back to her earlier days, pop, and even some R&B.  Some of my favorites included “Pills N Potions”, “The Crying Game”, “Only”, “Feeling Myself”, and “The Night Is Still Young.”  Any Nicki Minaj fan should find something that they like on the album.


5. The Inevitable End – Royksopp

2014 album of the year inevitable endThis is another album that people might not have heard about when it was released back in November.  The Norwegian electronic duo Royksopp put out The Inevitable End with the plan to stop making music.  They might be taking a break, or they might be done for good.  Either way, I thought that the album was a fitting conclusion to their career.  You could tell that there was a sad tone throughout the album, but it also had some warm feelings as well.  They also collaborated with pop star Robyn for songs like “Do It Again” and “Monument”.  The album also ended with the simply titled “Thank You”, which was a strong finish.


4. The New Classic – Iggy Azalea

2014 album of the year new classicIggy Azalea took the hip-hop world by the horns.  Her first album The New Classic, contained a plethora of hits that propelled her to the top of her game.  “Work”, “Change Your Life”, “Fancy” and “Black Widow” were all songs that put her in the spotlight of the hip-hop industry.  She has also faced equal amounts of backlash and attacks from fellow rappers, but I thought that she has handled herself pretty well despite the things she has gone through.  The album was a strong first impression, and I can only imagine the type of hits she will come out with in the coming years.


3. Shady XV – Eminem & Shady Records

2014 album of the year shadyThe king of controversy is back again with the aptly named Shady XV.  Eminem has built his record label Shady Records into a formidalbe empire in the hip-hop industry.  The album came in two parts, the first being some of the new stuff from the record label, including songs like Eminem’s “Guts Over Fear” and the Detroit fight songs “Detroit Vs Everybody”.  The second part of the album went back in time, reviewing some of the classics that have come from the label.  There was a ton of stuff featured in the package, and it was hard to be disapointed with the final product.  Eminem continues to be one of the best rappers out there.


2. Blacc Hollywood – Wiz Khalifa

2014 album of the year hollywoodWiz Khalifa has had a tough year due to his break-up with long time wife Amber Rose.  However, when Wiz Khalifa goes and looks back on his year, Blacc Hollywood will probably make everything okay.  Wiz’s fifth studio album was supported to the top of the hip-hop charts with songs like “We Dem Boyz”, “KK”, and the pleasant sounding “Staying Out All Night.”  There was a lot more depth to the album than Wiz’s previous projects, making it just a joy to listen to.  Some people didn’t like it as much, but I thought there was a ton to like about the album.


1. 2014 Forest Hills Drive by J. Cole

2014 album of the year jcole

Finally, we have the recently released 2014 Forest Hills Drive, the third studio album by rapper J. Cole.  In my review, I stated that the album was more than just an album, but instead, a story.  J. Cole took us on a journey through his life, beginning in is childhood years and went till the current day J. Cole.  He had some revelations throughout the album and decided to act upon those revelations by the end.  It was amazing to see the progression of the rapper from being young, reckless, and famous to being the wise and talented artist that he is today.  J. Cole isn’t the household rapper that he should be.  If you are a fan of hip-hop at all, make sure to give his latest piece of work a listen, you wont regret it.  It’s fitting that the album has “2014” in it’s name, because it was by far my favorite of the year.

Review: 2014 Forest Hills Drive

2014 forest hills drive cover2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014)

J Cole

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.

2014 forest hills drive 2

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.

2014 forest hills drive

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.