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J. Cole’s “Cole World” Album Review: Director’s Cut

Posted by Nathan S. on 09/21/11 | Filed under Top Stories, Features, J. Cole
Cole World
Those who read my album reviews religiously on the mothership, and let's be real, all the cool kids do, know that I laid out a nearly 900 word breakdown of J. Cole's greatly anticipated debut album "Cole World" that also delved into the subjective nature of art and heavily quoted T.S. Eliot. Yeah, that's how I roll motherfuckers.

It'd be repetitive to go over the entire album again, long story short it has some brilliant moments but as an album isn't close to a classic, but believe it or not there are still some points I didn't have space to delve into, so I'm spilling over onto RefinedHype. I'm not saying it's the world's first Director's Cut of an album review, but it is.

Three things:

1: Mixtape Tracks? Really?: For those who haven't yet copped the album or seen the "Cole World" tracklist, "Lights Please" and "In the Morning" are both included. I know the average fan won't bat an eye at that last sentence, but those of us who really pay attention just did a spit take.

I've been doing this for a long time and I've never....let me think it over....nope, never....seen two songs that came out for free months previously, in the case of "Lights Please" two years ago (two years!) included on an album. It boggles my mind.

Yes, they're both some of Cole's best tracks, and "In the Morning" is the best single he's ever done, but including them does two things. First, it sends the message that "in two years, with major label backing, I couldn't come up with anything better." Second, this isn't 1998. There aren't going to be thousands of people who buy the album if this is the first time they've ever heard of him. The people who are going to buy "Cole World" are his hardcore fans; in other words the people who've had "Lights Please" and "In the Morning" in their iPods for months. Making those people pay for "Lights Please" and "In the Morning" is like Subway making you pay full price for a sub, and then when you upwrap the sandwich a third of it's already been chewed.

2: Management: Those who criticize the album will direct their criticism at Cole, but really a sizable amount of the blame should be directed at Roc Nation and his management. Major albums like this should feel like moments, and whatever you think of them in general the albums that have really had an impact over the past few years - "Thank Me Later", "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy", etc. - all felt like moments when they dropped. Not "Cole World". Done right the buzz for "Cole World" should have been extraordinary, but instead we got some mild, generalized excitement.

It simply took too long to drop this. Every month that went by without an album, every month that went by searching for that break through hit, was a month that pushed Cole into the background hum of Hip-Hop Nation. Jay said he's only interested in building Cole's career for the long haul, but in the here and now there's just no question that the allmighty Hova didn't go Cole right on this one.

I will say this though. If you're some internet rapper you have one chance to impress fans or you're gone. Cole's far too good to let eh sales and reviews of "Cole World" kill him. He'll be here for years to come, and hopefully as he learns more about the game and continues to find his own sound he'll deliver the classic album we were all hoping for.

3: Nobody's Perfect: This song is the shit. This is exactly the blend of lyrical depth, true soul and head-nodding beat that he needs to do more of. If they don't push this as a single I'll have to update that paragraph about management with a litany of F-Bombs. When those drums kick in, damn. Just damn.

On a closing note, despite what the Cole fans sending me hate mail now think, I'm not writing this because I'm some bitter guy with a keyboard. On the contrary I love hip-hop, and at his best I love J. Cole's music, and I care enough to really, really want the man to produce timeless works that ensure he'll be here for decades.

See Also: My DJBooth Review of "Cole World"
This Is My Rifle: Hey Roc Nation, Stop Shoving J. Cole Into the Mainstream

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