J. Cole delivers an emotional message full of hard truths, personal thoughts, and simple jazz instrumentation. We explore if this album was worth the hype.
Coming off of a big 2014 album in ‘Forest Hills Drive’ that eventually went double platinum and was followed with an equally major tour. ‘Forest Hills Drive’ was praised for achieving this milestone with no features, and exactly two years later, J. Cole would release’ 4 Your Eyez Only’, again deciding to keep any big name features completely away from the project. Ultimately, this lack of features compliments the tone of this project much better than it did on ‘Forest Hills Drive’. The tone however, is something some may see as a major weakness for this album.
Album rating: 7.8
The title and closing track, ‘4 Your Eyez Only’, is a nearly 9 minute expedition of bars where J. Cole is trying to be the realest possible. This song goes on and on, but tells an amazingly sad story and wrapped up the entire concept of the album, which is that ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ is J. Cole sharing the parallel perceptions of him and his deceased friend, James McMillian Jr.
This album is a very personal album, and a good chunk of it are love songs. ‘She’s Mine Pt.1’ and ‘Shes Mine Pt. 2’ are directed towards his wife and daughter respectively, giving perspectives on finding love, responsibility, and fatherhood. ‘Foldin Clothes’ explores similar themes, but is one of the more lively and fun songs on the whole album, while ‘She’s Mine Pt. 2’ made for an almost identical feeling song as ‘Pt. 1’, with the same hooks and production, almost killing the value of both the tracks.
Speaking of repeats, the track ‘Deja Vu’ has seen some controversy, seeing that the beat is very similar to a 2015 grammy nominated song ‘Exchange’ by Bryson Tiller. True enough, the bravado J. Cole shows on the hook proves the song is much more than the beat.
In fact, the beats and production of this album play a much more minor role than they did in ‘Forest Hills Drive’, perhaps another weakness for this album. Though a handful of songs, including the opening song ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ have very lively jazz arrangements, a majority of the songs are raw, basic, and stripped back beats.
Be sure to watch Eyez, a documentary showing J. Coles life and the making of this project.
The emotion that J. Cole delivers through his lyrics is the most shining and powerful attribute of the album by far. Songs like ‘Immortal’ and ‘Neighbors’ showcase J. Cole’s ability to constantly spill thoughts on his adversities, growing up, and life lessons, and he never displays a shred of ignorance while doing it. ‘Changes’ is just one of the several songs where J. Cole spills his soulful, a track where he is heard crying as it ends, as he explains learning about his friend James’ death.
While most of the songs maintain top notch “real” factor, it can feel at times at the preachiness shines through the cracks. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if J. Cole is succumbing to the pressure of being the head of an entire sub-genre, and thus fully embracing conscious and progressive concepts, or if this all is just coming completely naturally from him.
It’s also clear that this project was influenced by none other than 2pac. Tupac Shakur released ‘All Eyez On Me’ in 1996, the same year he was shot and killed. On ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ not only does J. Cole share flows that 2pac was known for, but he also references Pac through his lyrics, something seen in ‘Immortal’ and ‘Deja Vu’ for example. Adding to this, we have already discussed Cole’s friend James being shot dead, which is yet another parallel between this album, 2Pac, and J. Cole’s life.
‘4 Your Eyez’ is a sombre, emotional, personal and at times powerful album. Just a few weeks before the release most people had no clue J. Cole would drop a new album, and due to the themes and perceptions explored it’s understandable why J. Cole didn’t do a grand rollout, nor is he likely to do any sort of crazy tour for it. The absence of both ‘False Prophets’ and ‘Everybody Dies’ may have hurt the overall album, but was an interesting way to drop the singles and create some buzz. This album won’t be for everyone, but is certainly going to stand the test of time for anyone is truly resonates with.
Stream ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ and decide it’s worth for yourself.
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