By Sabrina Axelrod
The newest album from Dreamville Records artist J. Cole, “4 Your Eyez Only,” dropped on Dec. 9, 2016. The album, which had the third biggest first-week sale of 2016, according to Billboard, strays from the typical J. Cole his fans have come to know and love. In his newest album, Cole intertwines themes of life and death through stories of the birth of his daughter and the death of a friend.
Unlike Cole’s past albums “4 Your Eyez Only” is one continuous narrative that can only be understood by listening from the beginning to end. Through his 10 tracks, Cole describes getting into trouble with the law, meeting a woman, falling in love and having a daughter. Not only does he paint the story of his personal life, he also tells stories about his friends’ experiences and their impact on his life.
Fans of J. Cole know that he is not like most rappers. While he does include lyrics about cars, money and women, he also focuses on his life growing up in Fayetteville, N.C. He describes how his hometown molded him and his music into what it is today.
The album starts with “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” which is a skit with a beat behind it that sets the tone for his remaining songs.
“Immortal,” which was my favorite song off the album, starts off with a thrumming bass that Cole skillfully raps over. His rap illustrates most people’s perception of “the hood” and other parts of growing up in poverty.
“Immortal” is followed by “Déjà vu,” which has an excellent beat and catchy hook. Cole tells the story of how he met the girl of his dreams. Cole’s rap takes a slow turn as he talks about what it felt like to fall in love for the first time. He returns to the theme of new love in songs like “She’s Mine Part I” and “Foldin’ Clothes.”
The album continues on with tracks like “Ville Mentality,” “Change” and “Neighbors,” which explain the struggles of growing up in the ghetto and the temptation to fall into a life of crime.
Cole’s story starts to expand in the ninth track of the album, “She’s Mine Part II.” In “She’s Mine Part II,” I figured out that the song about meeting a woman, and the “Part II” is about raising one. Once I listened to “Part II,” I realized that this album is more than just catchy tunes and hooks — it is one of depth and beauty.
In the last song of the album,“4 Your Eyez Only,” Cole raps to his daughter and tells his friend’s daughter about her fallen father. This song gave me the chills and had me listening to the whole album on repeat for weeks.
This album is a work of art. Cole has a talent for storytelling, and his albums continue to improve.