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Album Review: Cole World: The Sideline Story, by J. Cole

Posted by Lindsay Carolla on 10/18 at 02:29 PM

Grade: B 

It seems like everything Jay-Z touches turns to gold.  And, before the year is over, J. Cole’s debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story won’t be any different. The album dropped September 27 and sold 218, 000 units in its first week. It’s comprised of 14 hard-hitting tracks, as well as an ”Intro” and an “Interlude,” that feature the rookie  discussing with friends his rise to fame thanks to Jay-Z.

J. Cole got his big break in 2009 after Jay-Z heard, ”Lights Please,” a song that first appeared on J. Cole’s second mixtape The Warm Up and has now been included on this full length album. In a classic Rockafella-esque approach, “Lights Please” balances the issues of sex and relationships in a contemporary society over a steady and simple drumbeat. Indeed, this is a common theme throughout the album.

The “Intro” seamlessly transitions into the first joint, “Dollar and a Dream III.” This track is the third installment of J. Cole’s self-told rags-to-riches narrative (the first ”Dollar and a Dream” can be heard on the young artist’s first mixtape aptly titled The Come Up Mixtape Vol. 1 and The Warm Up has the second - “Dollar and a Dream II”).   When J. Cole isn’t discussing his climb to stardom, he tends to deal with complicated matters of the heart. It is clear J. Cole thinks about more than just carnal desire. For instance, he contemplates the added relationship obstacles that follow fame in a style similar to Kanye West (See: “Bittersweet Poetry,” “Devil in a New Dress,” “Drunk and Hot Girls” etc.). The first single from Cole World, “Work Out,” that premiered June 15 is a perfect example. “Work Out” steals its melody from Paula Abdul’sStraight Up” 1988’s lasting question of commitment. J. Cole’s version updates such uncertainty with bass and applause (sampled from West’s “The New Workout Plan” by sheer coincidence, I’m sure). Listen for this track soon to be overplayed in your favorite club.

Nobody’s Perfect” is a track that blends J.Cole’s two favorite subjects and surprisingly features a sexy and soulful Missy Elliot. The tough-as-nails female artist hasn’t released an album since 2005, and truth be told, I can only remember her in an oversized basketball pinny giving an attitude to whomever fired Honey (a young Jessica Alba) in the 2003 film of the same name. Elliot really ‘gets her freak on’ as J.Cole’s assumed love interest in the chorus claiming that “Nobody’s perfect, but your perfect for me.” J. Cole crafts his lyrics around this sentiment utilizing his baritone pipes that creates a rap meets rhythm and blues aesthetic - a common if not overused combination.

Other tracks to take note of are “Mr. Nice Watch,” which features J. Cole’s mentor, Jay-Z, and “Daddy’s Little Girl.” For a second, while listening to “Mr. Nice Watch,” you might think you stumbled upon a bonus track from Watch the Throne. J. Cole borrows heavily from Kanye again here (See: “Who Gon Stop Me”), but with a fresher and not yet jaded enthusiasm. The song consists of a faster tempo with grainy, staticky voice synths. “Daddy’s Little Girl” explores the dichotomy of growing up too fast in a less explicit style than say Nas’sI Can.” Nevertheless, “Daddy’s Little Girl” is haunting and poignant in its message and rhythm.

Cole World also features Drake alongside J. Cole in a slow R&B-esque serenade to a girl that stands apart from the rest called “In the Morning.” It makes perfect sense that the two rap neophytes would collaborate to show face. But, in essence, J. Cole is Roc Nation and Jay-Z’s response to the phenomenal success Drake has brought to Young Money Entertainment and Lil Wayne. J. Cole is following in the same tried and true (i.e. safe) footsteps as Drake did who has a slight head start: traditional rap mixtapes, to features on hooks with established artists, to a solid break through album that blends rap, dance, and R&B tracks. Now, cut to Drake’s second album Take Care, set to release October 24 and rumored to contain a majority of slow jams. Will J. Cole follow suit?

Overall, Cole World: The Sideline Story is a quality album. It has variety, talent, and a top-notch cast. However, it receives a B grade, because it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. J.Cole and his label are clearly capitalizing on the success of artists like Drake without offering anything unique or innovative. J. Cole’s influences are completely transparent. Though the album is enjoyable to listen to, Cole World is everything I expected, and sadly no more. If his next album is heavily R&B influenced, I give up.

Cole World: The Sideline Story is available for purchase on Amazon.com:


 

{name} Author: Lindsay Carolla
Bio: Lindsay Carolla is a senior studying English, and Italian language and literature at the Pennsylvania State University. She is an on-air personality for the Lion 90.7fm on the Jam 91 Show. She finds pleasure in traveling, attending concerts, and literary symbolism. Lindsay has an eclectic taste in music which ranges from her favorite rap artist, Notorious B.I.G., to her favorite indie darling, Modest Mouse. But what she enjoys most is when two unlikely musical genres successfully combine to create a new aesthetic, such as can be found in the band Brokencyde.

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