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The three things I want from J. Cole’s next album

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.
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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!

–    Jesse


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Hype, T.L.O.P and post-Yeezus Kanye West

Let me start by asserting Kanye West is my favourite artist of all time, every album he has released I both own and love. His passion, creativity and unique approach to making music is to quote Future is nothing short of ‘sensational’.

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Kanye West has created a massively successful and robust brand in which anything he produces is almost assumed to succeed (see Yeezy Boosts or first week sales of MBDTF). This is, of course, being with good reason he has proved time and time again he can deliver. But in this blog, I want to discuss the ‘new’ Kanye, his new level of fame, popularity or hype and how it specifically related to one of the year’s most anticipated albums. The Life of Pablo.

It’s hard to disagree that over the past 3 years Kanye West has dominated the news whether this is the tabloids, newspapers, social media or the TV Kanye has made an appearance in all of them. Some may argue this is common for a celebrity (no pun intended). However, if we were to compare this with his peers: Jay-Z, Drake, Kendrick Lamar and J.cole you would realise Kanye has ascended past the title ‘rapper’. He is a celebrity in every essence of the word and a big one. Why this is significant is because unlike his celebrity peers he utilises this in a very unique and captivating way.

His first string of interviews after the Yeezus album portrayed a new frustrated and frankly unarticulated Kanye, but this constantly saw him raise his celebrity status with numerous headlines for his ambitious and egocentric statements proclaiming he is the new Walt Disney, Michael Angelo and Steve Jobs. In-between, this time, he released clothing line venturing outside the music world and married one of the most famous people alive Kim Kardashian. All of this propelling Kanye West to a new level of fame and a new level of polarisation.

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But the fumbled release of T.L.O.P and its average rating from industry critics does highlight significant problems, although the reception of the album by fans was significantly higher,  I would argue it still doesn’t enter most fans top 3 Kanye West albums. Another important gauge would be album sales which are impossible to attain as of now because the album is still exclusively on Tidal, which has refused to release its streaming sales. And with Yeezus being outsold by J.Cole’s Born Sinner in its second week I would have been very curious to know how T.L.O.P sold. All in all Leading me to question was T.L.O.P enough to reclaim the hearts of previous fans and hip-hop lovers alike after a disappointing Yeezus album. Personally, for me yes it was. I will still continue to be anxious to listen to his new material as soon as it is released. But I do wonder if I am in the majority and if so is the number growing or shrinking?

Kanye’s place in Hip-hop is shifting with his relevance or purpose in the hip-hop world being chipped away at a more conscious level by rappers such as Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole whose albums were amongst the highest selling of the last year. But also on a more commercial level by part-time road man and pop star Drake. All of this putting Kanye West in an ambiguous space with him no longer being the ‘people’s champion’ nor the ‘hip-hop’s biggest star’. Coupling this with Kanye’s attention drawn toward the fashion world and music in the back seat will Kanye West ever reach the top of the music game again even if he wanted to?


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