J. Cole has carved himself out a great career thus far: He’s had a few number one albums, some Grammy nominated records, and the ultimate respect from his rap peers throughout his tenure. What makes these accolades even more impressive is the fact that he’s done this despite being more on the quiet side in terms of public appearances. With that being said, it’s been 5 years since his debut album released, which gave me an itch to go back and see how he got to this high-ranking in the first place.
5. MR. NICE WATCH (5/5)
‘Mr. Nice Watch’ sounds like futuristic/Terminator music; Intergalactic Cole is in the building on this one! It’s definitely a song that will grow on you each time you hear it.
On Cole’s verses, he’s being a bit cocky, something that is pretty unique.
BUT DAMN THAT GINA!
This song is top 5 because of Jay-Z’s verse and how he’s going at Waynes head (supposedly) on it. This will go down as one of Jay’s last good verses, to me.
I love the big brother/little brother relationship between Cole and Jay.
4. SIDELINE STORY (5/5)
“Sideline Story” is one of the original songs on the album. On this track, there is so much to prove from the underdog Cole, and he does just that in this 4 minute span.
Isn’t the way Cole is rapping almost like a forecast of how dominant he would be in the rap game? It’s so confident and so demanding of your ears! It’s probably how McDonalds felt when they first started putting secret sauce on their burgers.
The chorus is simple (Almost Mellow), but effective, as it plays like a catchy primary school ballad. (No wonder I get this young/innocent vibe from it.
How bout those pianos? Aren’t they so necessary even though it’s simple as s**t.
3. BREAKDOWN (5/5)
“Breakdown” is unbelievable! Why limit it by calling it simply music? Let’s go ahead and call it inspirational audio! In this song, there is so much passion/hurt/aggression from Cole, so much so that it made ME wanna slap the hell out of his father, and I don’t even know that man! Anyway, the song is the perfect representation of just how good Cole is: He can hit you with powerful bars that is so vivid and animated from time to time, and then he is able to harmonize at the end of the song like a humming bird. Extremely impressive.
The beat and the way Cole is rapping is like a perfect marriage, as both are heavy hitting, but at the same time has parts in which they display beautiful harmony.
2. LOST ONES (5/5)
It’s so fitting that ‘Lost Ones’ follows ‘In the Morning’ on the Track-listing, right? So Cole hit it in the morning, and now that girls pregnant!
This song is from the perspective of high school Cole and Shannequa aka ‘booty so big that you might just have the kid’ Johnson from around his way (I clearly made that name up). On the song, they’re going back and forth on whether they should keep this kid they made together, and it is flat out chilling! You can hear the scared/timid side of the man’s perspective, and the aggressive/B–tch please! side from the woman. Please believe, this song will make you think twice about putting your James Harden in your girl.
1. LIGHTS PLEASE (5/5)
I’m convinced that this is the song that got J.Cole signed to Roc-fella. Cole excels in songs like these, as its storytelling at its finest. He is extremely descriptive in what he’s going through with this thirst bucket of a girl, and his pitch/tones adjust so effectively to describe the changes in his mood.
To sum it up, this song is conscience rap with a splash of comedic genius. Cole’s not trying to shove down our throat why we should stop chasing narrow minded women, Instead, he’s telling us his own experience with that type of girl in hopes that we agree with his stance. This song is one of a kind, and is one of the more slept on records in rap history. (YEA I SAID IT, RAP HISTORY!)
SONG BY SONG BREAKDOWN
1. INTRO (N/A)
2. DOLLAR & A DREAM III (4.8/5)
3. CAN’T GET ENOUGH (5/5)
4. LIGHTS PLEASE (5/5)
5. INTERLUDE (N/A)
6. SIDELINE STORY (5/5)
7. MR. NICE WATCH (5/5)
8. COLE WORLD (4/5)
9. IN THE MORNING (5/5)
10. LOST ONES (5/5)
11. NOBODY’S PERFECT (4.8/5)
12. NEVER TOLD (4.4/5)
13. RISE & SHINE (4.9/5)
14. GOD’S GIFT (4.8/5)
15. BREAKDOWN (5/5)
16. WORK OUT (4.3/5)
17. WHO DAT (4.5/5)
18. DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL (4/5)
This album is raw rap! It lacks glamour and bling bling talk, doesn’t include crazy punchlines, and definitely refrains from drug talk. So the question is this: Who exactly would like this album? People who think outside the box in terms of the everyday life of a young black male would. The album is an adventure of sorts, and through the ride, you are blessed with lessons, perspectives, and innocence. Cole took you into his world on this album, and his world is pretty interesting.
Quincy is the creator of Ratings Game Music. He loves writing about music, taking long walks on beaches, and spaghetti that fights him back.