J. Cole shifts to his highest gear in “The Off-Season.”
5. c l o s e
Snubbing so many different songs from this album was difficult for me (It was harder than giving up porno).
“c l o s e” should’ve been the outro to The Off-Season, but J. Cole never does things orthodoxly (That’s why we love him). Anywho, in the song, he actually uses his inside voice (Sort-of) to hit us with passionate lyrics that will let you know the thin line between dying and making it out of the hood. While he doesn’t sound as dynamic as he does in the other songs on this album, he does sound as driven as it gets.
4. p u n c h i n ‘ . t h e . c l o c k
J. Cole punches s**t alright…
“p u n c h i n ‘ . t h e . c l o c k” is short but sweeter than black people’s Kool-Aid (Y’all know that black people’s Kool-Aid is just sugar water, right?). In less than two minutes, Cole hits us with some of the most consistent/dynamic flows I’ve ever heard, lyrics that talk about his rough come-up, lyrics that will make born-again Christians relapse, and uber-aggressive deliveries. The song’s icing on the cake is Damian Lillard’s wise words sprinkled throughout.
3. 9 5 . s o u t h
As a Diplomats fan, I can honestly say that I damn-there teared up hearing Cam’ron open up “9 5 . s o u t h,” the intro to the album.
How refreshing was it to hear J. Cole start off The-Offseason spazzing? Gassed up by Cam’ron and Lil Jon’s The East Side Boyz (Remember them?), Cole drops killer bars using tamed deliveries, explosive deliveries, abominable flows, and punchlines that will go over your head like a halo (That Luigi’s brother line was sick as f**k). At the end of the day, the best part of the song is how, lyrically, Cole demands respect from his competition in every single way.
2. m y . l i f e
J. Cole and 21 Savage reunite for the very powerful “My Life.”
Of course, 21 Savage had to pay J. Cole back for the verse that the North Carolina rapper gave him on “a lot.” In “m y . l i f e,” 21 hits us with one of his most gassed-up, most poised, most vulnerable, and most impressive verses to date.
Of course, Morray had to pay J. Cole back for signing him. In “m y . l i f e,” he makes sure to bless us with a hook that is as emotional as an episode of ROC.
While I love what both 21 Savage and Morray were able to provide us with in this song, at the end of the day, Cole sounds way too hungry, too rabid, too focused, too dynamic, and too confrontational to be given third place.
1. a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e
No cap/kizzy/lie, “a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e” is one of the only songs that released in the last ten years that can go toe to toe with any hard-hitting rap track ever created.
Though “a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e” features a lot of yapping at the end, the f**king flows that J. Cole hits us with are the following:
- Sturdy enough to hold your overweight uncle that loves to add extra butter onto his pancakes.
- Hard enough to do three life sentences.
- Scary enough to make Lil Durk unshiesty.
- Classic enough to make Prince Akeem bow to him.
- Nasty enough to make poutine say “Cot damn!”
As for Cole’s lyrics, they are the right amount of trill and cocky. By the time you are done listening to the track, you will want to put an XL amount of respect on his name.
SONG BY SONG BREAKDOWN
1. 9 5 . s o u t h (5/5)
2. a m a r i (4/5)
3. m y . l i f e (5/5)
4. a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e (5/5)
5. p u n c h i n’ . t h e . c l o c k (5/5)
6. 1 0 0 . M I L (4/5)
7. P R I D E . I S . T H E D E V I L (4/5)
8. L E T . G O . M Y . H A N D (4/5)
9. I N T E R L U D E (4/5)
10. T H E . C L I M B . B A C K (5/5)
11. C L O S E (5/5)
12. H U N G E R . O N . H I L L S I D E (4/5)
I have to collect myself after listening to this album (Give me a second, please).
OK, I’m back! So why do I think that The-Offseason is the album of the year so far? Here’s why:
You get a version of Cole that we’ve been waiting for. Throughout his career, I feel like he toyed with all sorts of gears, never really shifting to his top gear. In The-Offseason, Cole shifts to his highest gear, breaking the goddamn clutch in the process. Not only does he hit us with flows that I literally was stunned by, but he also hits us with unbelievable punchlines, super competitive lyrics, great stories, crazy wordplay, tons of energy, and deliveries that will make you think that he is rap’s version of the dude from Bar Rescue. In other words, you get a version of Cole that holds zero back in the album. You also get a good mix of old-school, soulful, and riveting instrumentals, some great surprising features, and epic titles. My only beef with the album is that the titles have so many f**king spaces in them!
After listening to The Offseason, I am proud to announce that J. Cole has officially clinched a spot as one of my top 5 rappers of all time.
Check out our top 5 J. Cole albums HERE!
Quincy is the creator of Ratings Game Music. He loves writing about music, taking long walks on beaches, and spaghetti that fights him back.