While some are left underwhelmed after listening to the new J. Cole album KOD, a collection of 12 tracks with little tying them together, J. Cole himself could hardly care. KOD has garnered 400,000 albums sold, and Cole is on the way for his fifth No. 1 album on Billboard’s top 200.
The title of the album, King Overdose or Kids on Drugs, and the album cover which pictures J. Cole with a crown alludes to the fact that he is now the king of the rap game, and Cole sticks to this position throughout the album.
While he touches on many topics throughout the project, drugs, money, violence and adultery being the prominent ones, perhaps the most striking song of the project content-wise is “1985-” (Intro to “The Fall Off”).
In this song, the last of the project, J. Cole addresses the new wave of rappers who he believes are misusing their influence and not thinking about the longevity of their careers.
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While he understands where they are coming from, rapping “I remember I was 18/ Money, pussy parties I was on the same thing,” J. Cole urges up-and-coming rappers to think about their audience, and how their music affects the culture: “These white kids love that you don’t give a fuck/ They wanna be black and think yo song is how it feels.”
It was great to hear J. Cole addressing the issue of young fans getting a morphed perception of the struggles many rappers of color face throughout their lives. He offered advice on how impressionable viewers can also get the wrong idea pertaining to drug and alcohol use.
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It’s ironic that while he acknowledges that many rappers nowadays are using trap flows and routing trends, J. Cole uses many beats that feel like trap beats, and employs many rhyme schemes that are associated with mumble rap.
Sure, his lyricism is potent and does not fail to deliver thought-provoking bars, but it almost feels like he’s not trying his hardest in some songs, and is just making fun of the rap game and new music style.
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In KOD, the feature single of the album, Cole raps about selling drugs and attempts to make an almost Kendrick Lamar style banger. While it seemed completely different from his usual style, the last verse of that song is absolutely crazy and has a Migos-esque triplet flow. I was surprised to hear J. Cole tear up a beat with that kind of rhyme-scheme.
My personal favorite track from the album is “Kevin’s Heart.” While some of the hooks on this album were repetitive (like “ATM”) and some just didn’t sound like hooks (Like “KOD”), this song has a beautifully sung, catchy feely hook to it that sounds perfect. Cole touches on the temptations to cheat with groupies on tour, and the music video, starring Kevin Hart, goes deeper into the issues men have to face when cheating.
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In a hardly surprising move, J. Cole goes after the government often throughout the KOD project, complaining about how our tax dollars are spent funding the wrong things. Cole expresses his frustration that kids are being killed in the street with weapons funded through our tax dollars. He attempts to paint the picture not only of his struggle but of the struggle of impoverished communities across America.
All in all, if J. Cole hadn’t previously established himself as one of the king’s of the rap game, he certainly has now. Plus he makes his own beats. KOD is an amazing project, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to challenge the way that they think about the world and hip-hop.