Published Dec 09, 2014In a surprise announcement last month, J. Cole revealed he would be releasing his third LP 2014 Forest Hills Drive via Roc Nation, with nary a single to the album's name. The record, named after his last childhood home in Fayetteville, North Carolina — which he recently repurchased after its foreclosure a decade ago — serves as a standstill moment of history that bridges childhood memories to current success, interpolating tales of lust, confusion, growth and gratitude.
J. Cole's delivery holds a steady conviction that means with or without your approval he will tell his story and see his vision through from start to finish. He opens 2014 Forest Hills Drive by restating the sentiments he expressed in the album trailer: What is the price of achieving your dream? Cole outlines where he falls between making music and making bad choices on the likes of "January 28th" and the coming of age tale "03' Adolescence." With no features, Cole explores his singing vocals on the Mos Def doppelganger "St. Tropez" and relationship ballad "No Role Modelz."
Despite rarely working outside of his Dreamville producers, J. Cole calls on several producers on this album, but the results aren't always successful. !llmind, Cardiak and CritCal take on the mediocre life affirming "Love Yourz," while Cole calls on Phonix Beats to compare loose-lipped club singles and critical rap tracks on "G.O.M.D. (Get Off My Dick)," which samples Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz' "Get Low." Vinylz lays down the sonic heat for the gritty East Coast-inspired "A Tale of 2 Citiez," as well as the most controversial track, "Fire Squad." At a time when hip-hop culture has fallen victim to corporate culture vultures, J. Cole addresses his frustration with the ever-present appropriation of black culture. The song, which seemingly takes a page out of a Kanye West chapter, is complemented by the closing track "Notes To Self," a 14-track cut reminiscent of The College Dropout's "Last Call."
J. Cole's determined to make music that matters to him. He shines without any features, standing strong in his delivery and carrying his story to the forefront of the 13-track project. While it may not be his Late Registration, he has definitely graduated into a class of his own. (Dreamville/Roc Nation)