Tag Archives: Friday Night Lights

Album Review: “Cole World: A Sideline Story”

29 Sep

It’s been a little under a year since J Cole’s third mix tape Friday Night Lights was released. If you were one of the many who downloaded as soon as it dropped, as I did, then you probably realized the Internet almost crashed that night. His buzz was remarkable. With a solid fan base built, a sign by Roc Nation and “In The Morning” on all local radio stations hourly rotation, we were all expecting a follow up album… like now. But, it didn’t happen. Time was passing, the buzz flattened into a fizz and his not so loyal fans focus drifted towards a more accomplished artist (ahem, Drake). With rumors circulating of him being dropped, we were all left wondering: Has his career hit a brick wall?

Fast forward to September 26th, 2011. “Twas The Night Before Cole World,” the rapper tweeted. I was up, (way past my bedtime) waiting for the clock to strike 12 to purchase Cole World: A Sideline Story on iTunes, like the rest of my Twitter followers. Seeing the track listing left me with some concerns. Two mix tapes songs made the album, and “Who Dat” was also a contending bonus track. I couldn’t understand why. Why would “Lights Please” a song we first heard in 2009 even be considered on his debut? Great song, but the fact still remains it was two years old.  I wondered if this could possibly hinder sales.  The album opener, “Dollar And A Dream III” hijacked the thought right out of my mind.  An optomistic beat and a encouraged flow, this track was hopeful.  ” What would you do when you’re on your last dollar?”  A situation Cole found himself in, between graduating from college and being signed, working dead end jobs to make ends meet.  “Do you fold? Grow bitter and cold? No Longer fightin’/now the only thing you grow is old/ Or do you, flip that f*ckin dollar to a dream? Whether a scholar or a fiend, watch a pawn become a king.” Cole played chess well.

“Mr. Nice Watch,” an uppity club track with a beat reminiscent of a 90’s video game which Cole speeds up.  The song was still unfinished just five days before the album’s release date. What was missing? Of course, the first cosign from the boss “What’s up Cole? It’s your time, let these n*ggas know.” Jay-Z  adds what most would call his seal of approval which appropriately compliments the song.  The following track is the albums title “Cole World,” in which the rapper name checks, Sallie Mae. “Bet it on black and pray, I quadruple my salary/ If I win maybe then I could pay Sallie Mae.”  It’s no secret J Cole is a St. John’s graduate, this makes his music that much more relateable. He glorifies the struggle of a post-grad bum, trying to live a dream.  The album’s midpoint Cole incorporates what I feel hip-hop has been missing —  story telling.

In “Lost Ones” J Cole takes listeners through the scene of an unexpexted pregnancy.  First verse is from a man’s perspective: ” I know you’re wonderin’ if this gon’ make me think about wifin’ you/like if you had my first child would I spend my whole life with you….I refuse to bring my boy or girl in the world when I aint got sh*t to give em/ and I’m not with them n*ggas who be knocking girls up and skate out.”  Women’s emotions never go unheard and in the second verse, Cole’s pitch changes. He speaking from a different place, a womans prespective “Tryna take away a life, is you God mothaf*cka? I don’t think so/ this a new life up in my stomach, regardless if I’m your wife this new life here imma love it.” The narration on this song is strong, amazing and ultimately home hitting.

“Rise And Shine”  is a hard-hitting joint. Cole aggressively attacks the beat with meaningful word play. “More than a rapper this a natural disaster/boy, I’m meaner than katrina mixed with Gina, shut up, Cole!”  The intro to the song is fitting, a sample from Jay-Z backstage tour in which he’s discussing the kind of artist he’s looking for. “In between eating his Apple Jacks he’s writing some hot sh*t and he wants my spot.”  Jay may have lucked up.

Cole World  wraps up with the first single, “Work Out.” The album experiences a record vinyl scratch moment with this track, “Straight up now tell me do you really wanna love me forever/oh oh oh.” A  Paula Abdul sample meant for a more mainstream appeal. Although the song recieved a lot of negative feedback it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the disc.  A cohesive song line up — no fillers, pure talent, no gimmicks, and substance. Cole World: The Sideline Story an impressive first debut.

-Channie