Review: J. Cole’s ‘KOD’ is what hip-hop needs right now

J. Cole performs live in 2014. (Daniel Gregory/Creative Commons)

While some of music’s biggest artists are busy trending on social media for their antics regarding partying and hard drug use, J. Cole has a message for them drugged out kids who are steady chasing the dollar.

As seen on the cover of his fifth studio album, “KOD,” which Cole has described as meaning “Kids on Drugs,” “King Overdosed” and “Kill Our Demons,” there is a lot to be said on this album. With a release date of April 20, which for most is considered a “smoker’s holiday,” adds more to the message Cole is trying to send about drugs. From showing the struggles he faces with infidelity, drug dependence and even his stance as a “boring artist,” Cole addresses all of these topics in an engaging way that does not come off too preachy.  

Listeners learn from the intro track that when it comes to how people handle their “demons,” it is best if they choose wisely. From then on, Cole allows the listener to step into his life and see all of the issues he has overcome and may still be dealing with.

The track “Photograph” addresses his infatuation he has with a girl online and the toll it is taking on his perception of love. This can be heard in his lyrics: “Love today’s gone digital / And it’s messing with my health.” Cole attacks the idea of Instagram and how people are too quick to fall in love with someone they know nothing about.

Cole follows up with this issue of infidelity on the track “Kevin’s Heart.” Using comedian Kevin Hart’s public cheating scandal as a metaphor, Cole speaks about his struggle to remain faithful to his girl despite the temptation all around him. Cole shares these difficulties and even depicts how hard it is to stay loyal by singing, “Wishing that I could blind myself from view / And only have eyes, and only have eyes for you.”

Moving away from his love life, Cole sheds light on one of his own personal demons: drugs. The most personal aspect of this album is shared on the track “Once an Addict.” In this song, Coles revisits his mother’s alcohol addiction and, coincidently, her struggles with being cheated on.

Using a familiar approach, Cole chooses not to make this album a lecture and instead recounts problems he has dealt with when relating to others. We hear this on the track “FRIENDS,” where Cole brings on his alter ego, “Kill Edward,” to sing about his dependence on weed.

Cole shows on this album that he has kept his ears to the streets and the constant labeling of his music as “boring” has definitely awoken a beast. The upbeat tracks on this album show that Cole is capable of having a catchy single while still delivering an important message. The album’s self-titled track,  similar to Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble,” showcases the lyricist’s ability to create a hit despite his title as a conscious rapper. The track “ATM” sends a clear message about the materialistic energy hip-hop has and the fate one will find while only chasing the dollar.

But Cole isn’t finished there, as he still has a message for the people who disrespect his name. The album’s final song, “1985 (Intro to ‘The Fall Off’),” takes shot at all of the new-wave rappers. One of the most recent artist who released a diss track about Cole was Lil Pump, and for some, it is apparent this is who Cole is targeting. As if the previous lyrics were not enough to destroy him, Cole finishes by predicting his career will not last longer than five years.

“KOD” manages to satisfy everyone who has something bad to say about Cole. Fans get the up-tempo beats that are catchy but have a subtle message to them. They also get a glance into Cole’s own demons and a chance to relate to the rapper in terms of addiction and relationship issues. Finally, there’s a jab at the current state of hip-hop and the consequences of being materialistic.

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