J. Cole released 2014 Forest Hills drive on the 9th December 2014 to pretty much universal acclaim by both critics and fans alike who were definitely pleased with the quality of the album. However, I still think J. Cole can take it up a step further and create that ‘classic’ album everyone knows he’s capable of. To do this I think J. Cole would benefit enormously by doing three loosely connected things which all involve him taking a step back, in wanting to be the main producer on every album, wanting to be the only rapper/feature on every track and lastly challenging himself to a greater artistic extent. I’ll explain what I mean below.
Firstly, in terms of the production, we have seen J. Cole consistently take the lead on producing his own albums. Which, he does very well due to his undeniable talent as a producer. But we have also seen some very exceptional J. Cole tracks produced by other artists which have stood out on albums. For example ‘No Role Modlez’ was produced by Phonix beats and only co-produced by J. Cole, ‘A Tale of 2 Citiez’ was entirely produced by Vinlyz and “Love Yourz” was produced by !llmind. J. Cole sounded great on all these tracks and personally, they are three of my favourite instrumentals on the album. A particular producer I would love to to see Cole work with would be Kanye West. If you’ve listened to J. Cole’s older music you would know why this combo would be pure brilliance. J. Cole would sound incredible on a Kanye West instrumental (see Vilematic) and to my surprise this partnership still hasn’t happened given their mutual affiliation with Jay Z.
Secondly, J. Cole has given us two consecutive albums in which he is the only rapper featured. On the first occasion on Born Sinner, this felt like a bold statement proclaiming J. Cole offers enough lyrical content and versatility to the extent there’s no need for features (which is only half true). On the second occasion he took it a step further on 2014 Forest Hills Drive, again it was very impressive to see an album with no features go platinum and still be that good. However, if I’m being honest I don’t want to see it again, I want to see Cole go toe-to-toe with his peers such as Kendrick Lamar, idols such as Nas or dare I say maybe even future on a hook? (who knows it could work…). The point is, it’s rewarding to listen to an artist who has good chemistry with other artists on songs and it would be quite refreshing to hear a J. Cole album with carefully selected well-placed features. (see Jay x Ye, Drake x Wayne, Schoolboy Q x ASAP Rocky).
Thirdly, I want to see Cole challenge himself artistically to a greater extent. This is perhaps my most obscure point but bear with me, I’ll explain exactly what I mean. ‘Wet Dreamz’ a classic J. Cole song full of ‘personal’ storytelling over an instantly recognisable J. Cole instrumental. But what I find interesting and maybe even worrying is that the song was originally intended for his first album back in 2011. Which, is hardly his or anyone else’s favourite album. In the future, I would love to see Cole step out his comfort zone, away from the safety net of a song like ‘Wet Dreamz’ and into something brand new. Taking a bigger risk on the sound of his album as we have seen a perfection of the J. Cole formula with his last two albums which were full of everything ‘Cole-like’ making them crowd pleasing and instant hits with his fans. But, now I would love to see an album the deviates from his usual formula for success challenging the box we have put him in as a rapper and really demonstrating his artistic capability.
I guess that just about sums it up if J. Cole did those 3 things on his next album I honestly believe he’d make his best album yet, but also maybe his most controversial and divisive. But hey it’s rap, right?
Let me know what think & if you agree or not!