It came like lightning.
J. Cole dropped the announcement, and the response was tremendous. Cole fans everywhere have been looking forward to his new album, but honestly, anybody who missed real hip-hop was too.
It should've been another regular 4/20, but Cole, purposely and thoughtfully, chose the drug holiday to make his return.
The album begins with the title track 'KOD,' and immediately you sense this is a different Cole. Cole ditches the typical soulful beats we're used to in favor of the more common trap sounds and surprisingly it works for him. He begins his opening verse with a series of questions, most of them about his lack of features, and his response is cold. "How bout you just get the fuck off my dick/ How bout you listen and never forget/ Only gon' say this one time then I'll dip/ Niggas ain't worthy to be on my shit." These rappers aren't worthy to feature on Cole's album, and he proved that throughout 'KOD.'
The next song on the album, ' Photograph,' finds Cole rapping about arguably this generation's biggest addiction in a super creative way. "Fell in love through photograph/ I don't even know your name/ Wonder if you'd follow back/I hope to see you one day," Cole sings on the chorus, acknowledging his own struggles with beautiful women on social media. He then follows the clever chorus with a smooth verse about the Instagram model in question.
My favorite song on the album comes next. On 'The Cut Off,' Cole's alter ego KiLL edwards makes his debut, "I know Heaven is a mind state, I've been a couple times/ Stuck in my ways so I keep on falling down." The J. Cole we're used to makes his debut on this track too, ditching the trap drums for a more soulful sample, and he doesn't disappoint. "Yeah, I got some niggas that still owe me an apology/I'ma be the bigger man just like I always be," Cole begins. Cole's angry, to the point he's ready to kill, but he decides vengeance is best for the Lord. The verse reaches it's climax midway as Cole spews out the reasons for "The Cut Off." His generosity was taken advantage of, and if they were in his position, they wouldn't have done half of what he's done. KiLL edwards closes the song with a simple but true outro, " Time will tell who is on my side."
"ATM" and Motiv8 follow a similar formula, a simple repetitive chorus followed by bars. "ATM" is the radio banger of the album, and it's placement in NBA playoff commercials already speak to that.
On "Motivat8" Cole is talking his cash shit. Cole quietly flexes on his verse, "Woah, suddenly, I feel like takin' a PJ/Fly to D.R. on a weekday, eatin' ceviche/ With like half of a mili inside of my briefcase," and he keeps going, "A couple of freaks play/And they don't speak Ingles/ But the money is something that they could comprende/ And I got bread like I'm Green Day"
Everyone loves "Kevin's Heart." J. Cole uses Kevin Hart's situation for a clever double-entendre about drugs and cheating. He raps about the struggle of being faithful, especially while being famous. Kevin Hart also stars in the video, coincidentally.
"BRACKETS" follows next, and Cole tells the truth about our tax dollars. He wonders how he pays all these taxes, but his community sees no benefit from them. The education system catches his ire first. The money goes into schools but what's the point when none of the black kids graduate? Or what about the fact that the curriculum has been white-washed? Cole's verse then transitions to voting and democracy as he vents his frustration with this genuinely undemocratic system. Definitely the most politically conscious song on the album.
Nobody in the game is a better storyteller than J. Cole, and he proves it on "Once an Addict (Interlude)." On this track, Cole paints for us the traumatic experience of being the crutch for an addict-parent, in this case, his mother. His mother struggled alcohol addiction, but it got awful once she found out Cole's stepfather cheated and had a baby on her. It got so bad that Cole preferred to stay on the streets than go back home and deal with her. He wanted to help her but whenever he tried it ended negatively, "I wish her son's love was enough/I tell her, "Mama, go to sleep," She tell me "Boy, hush/ You better pray to God you never get your heart crushed." He thought going to college would solve all his family's problems, something I thought too, and we both realized isn't true. He might've been away from home, but his mom's late night drunk calls still came in, "She lit, talkin' drunk shit, I'm pissed/ But I'm still all ears like Basset Hounds/ Thinkin' to myself, "Maybe my mama need help/Don't she got work in the morning, Why she do this to herself?" As Cole rambles on about why his mother is like this, the answer hits him at the end of the verse, "Lookin' back, I wish I woulda did more/ instead of running."
kILL edwards makes his final appearance on "FRIENDS." He handles chorus duties, setting the table for a J. Cole verse every smoker should meditate on. "I wrote this shit to talk about the word addiction," Cole begins before begging everybody to listen. He ponders how he's so successful, yet his friends aren't even trying to be. Is it being black? Or could it be the system? Or maybe now it's Trump being president? Or maybe it's all the trap music. What's the true reason behind addiction? He lists a few more possibilities but then stops himself, "What I'm tryna say is the blame can go deep as seas/ Just to blame 'em all I would need like twenty CD's." He then continues his verse on what he thinks could be the real reason. The stigma our community has about mental illness forced a lot of us to keep everything in and not talk about our issues. And now we use drugs to mask it, to the point where we can't function without them. But Cole reveal's the harsh truth about the mix of drugs and depression, they don't blend well. You use the drugs to hide from the fact, but you'll have to face your demons one day. Cole admits, " I understand this message is not the coolest to say," but he provides a solution everyone should try, meditation.
"Window Pain (Outro)" is another display of Cole's storytelling prowess. Cole harmonizes a beautiful chorus before he explains his window pain. Cole has everything he wanted, the money, the women, and the respect, yet he still feels pain from all the things he sees. He begins his tirade on the hood, more specifically his hood. He questions why they still gangbang but he knows the answer, "That it seem like for acceptance niggas will do anything/Niggas will rep any gang, niggas will bust any head/Niggas will risk everything." Cole then switches the topic to a little girl he met over the summer, whose story he will never forget. She watched a bullet go through her cousin's head, killing him right in front of her. Cole paints a picture so vivid here, you damn near visualize this entire song.
With "1985 (Intro to "The Fall Off"), Cole saved the best for last, and he didn't disappoint. This is a message the entire rap game needed, and Cole delivered it perfectly. He gives his reason behind the verse, "I heard one of em' diss me, I'm surprised/ I ain't trippin', listen good to my reply," before putting the whole rap game on game. Cole admits, he's unimpressed by this new age rap, but he loves seeing a black man get paid. He knows they're having fun, but they don't understand their influence, "But have you ever thought about your impact?/ These white kids love that you don't give a fuck/ Cause that's exactly what's expected when your skin black." White people love this. They love seeing us do crazy dances like 'The Dab' and the 'Shoot Dance', they love seeing us pop pills and do drugs, and they love the unnecessary tattoos, especially the face tats. Cole then gives the ultimate reality of the relationship between white people and hip-hop music, "They wanna be black and think your song is how it feels."
Cole hates the fact these new rappers have no awareness of themselves. No awareness of their influence on the younger generation, no awareness of how their music makes other people of color look, and what makes it worse is that they don't care. All they care about their chains, whips, hoes, and all the money they blow. And then Cole begins his lesson on 'The Fall Off' 101. He explains the very same white people selling out his shows will soon be too grown for their music which means no more sold out shows which ultimately means no more money. You'll then try to pop again, but it won't work, and you'll be left broke with no crib, just a bunch of fake friends and a Benz.
Cole wishes them luck though before addressing Lil Pump a little more directly. He explains the difference between him and Soundcloud rappers like Lil Pump, "I'll be around forever cause my skills is tip-top/ To any amateur niggas that wanna get rocked/ Just remember what I told you when your shit flop/In five years you gon' be on Love & Hip-Hop, nigga."
Do you agree with my take on KOD? Let me know how you feel on Twitter: @_WhyToby