A Review: J.Cole’s KOD
Rapper J. Cole has released a new album and the internet is going crazy. Jermaine Lamar Cole, better known as his stage name J. Cole, is one of the modern pioneers of the recent revival of conscious rap.
Conscious rap is a sub-genre of Hip-Hop that is not solely focused on women, power, and material wealth. Conscious rap digs deeper and discusses important issues in the black community such as gang violence and police brutality.
Cole’s new album KOD which was released April 20, 2018, principally focuses on how rap artist and people in the community use a variety of drugs as coping mechanisms for the hurt that they experience.
Cole’s twelve track album takes the listener on a journey inside of the minds of present day rap artists, friends in his old community, his mother, children growing up in rough communities, and himself.
The album is sheer art and even the cover belongs inside of an art gallery.The cover art features a painting of Cole adorned in a velvet and fur robe and his head is bedecked with a stately crown. However, his appearance is altered unfavorably with only the whites of his eyes visible. Under his regal garb are children who are high and abusing cocaine, marijuana, pills, and lean. Cole’s fingers are adorned with jewels, but on his pinky there is the long fingernail that is infamous in drug culture as a tool used by cocaine dealers to test the authenticity of their product.
Above the tittle of the album, a warning is printed: “This album is in no way intended to glorify addiction.”
Below is a track by track description is of each song listed on the album.
Intro–“Someone please turn off my mind, my thoughts are racing all the time. There is no reason or no rhythm. I’m trapped inside myself.”
The introduction of the KOD album is frankly disturbing. Cole sounds paranoid as he states, “I’m calling out for help.”
Throughout the course of the album, there is an omniscient disembodied female narrator, like the female voice that appears on Prince’s album Art Official Age. Cole’s narrator warns, “Life can bring much pain. There’s many ways to deal with this pain, choose wisely.”
This warning appears on several tracks of KOD and is the album’s resounding moral.
KOD– “I smoke a drug and it runs through my veins. I think it’s working, it’s numbing the pain.”
This title track tells the story of a young rapper who just found fame or perhaps Cole is reminiscing on his life. People in the young person’s life are asking how much money he makes and other very personal and annoying questions.
The protagonist deals with the pressures of fame by abusing more drugs than ever before. Lastly, the narrator warns that there are many drugs such as power, greed, money, and pills, but the strongest drug is love.
Photograph– “Fell in love to a photograph, I don’t even know your name. Wonder if you’d follow back. I hope to see you one day. . . . Love today’s gone digital and it’s messing with my health.”
Photograph expounds on the drug of love. J. Cole praises a beautiful and laid-back woman. However, the underlying message of this song is that love is no longer a face to face meeting, but an interaction through social media.
Also, Cole seems conflicted as he transitions from the conversation of love to a tough street guy persona.
The Cut Off (Featuring kiLL edward)– “Give me drink give me dope. Bottom line, I can’t cope. If I die, I don’t know”
This song features kiLL edward which is J. Cole’s musical alter ego. Again drawing similarities to Prince’s Rainbow Children LP. In this song, Cole addresses his own problems and expounds on the recurring theme of hurt. Cole explores being repeatedly hurt by fake friends who use him financially, but never reciprocate.
Cole wishes to seek revenge, but realizes that revenge isn’t the right way. Again, drugs are used to cope with pain and there is a clear idea that abusing will lead to death, but Cole seems not to care.
ATM– “Count it up, Count it you. Can’t take it when you die, but you can’t live without it.”
ATM is about the drugs of money and greed. Cole takes a jab at modern rappers who constantly thank God but do evil. He even mentions the internet joke in which rappers are always citing the teacher that put them down as their greatest influence.
Cole expresses that money offers a lifestyle many rappers pursue- drugs and wild women-but obviously this lifestyle leads to destruction.
Motiv8– “Too many times, I swallowed my pride. I’m cracking a smile. I’m dying inside. My demons are close. I’m trying to hide. I’m popping a pill. I’m feeling alive.”
Motiv8 is another jab at modern rappers who rap about getting money and motivating others to do so as well. However, these people are hurting drug addicts not motivators.
Kevin’s Heart– “My ego gets stroked and I bruise her. My actions, I know they confuse her. At home, I look happy as usually. On the road I’m a mack, I’mma choose her. I’m an addict. I’m masking a Kevin’s Hart.”
Again, this song is about the drug of love. Like comedian Kevin Hart, who recently cheated on his pregnant wife, Cole confesses to enjoying or maybe just entertaining the idea of extramarital affairs.
Brackets – “Lord knows I need something to fill this void.”
Brackets is about the misallocation of tax dollars. Cole feels that if he must pay so much money toward government taxes, he should have a say in where his money goes.
At the end of the Brackets, Cole spins a tale of a mother who lost her son due to the guns that tax dollars brought into the community. On the way to her son’s funeral, she realizes that she too must pay her taxes and renew the grievous cycle.
Once an Addict– “Sometimes I think pain is just a lack of understanding. If we understood, would we feel no pain?”
Cole tells the personal story of his mother’s addiction to alcohol. He realizes that he and his mom were both depressed.
He wishes that he could have helped her through her addiction, instead of fleeing from their mutual pain by running the streets with gangsters.
Friends (featuring kiLL edward)– “There’s all kinds of trauma from drama children see. The type of [explicit] that would normally call for therapy. But you know just how it go in out community. Keep that [explicit] inside no matter how hard it be. Fast-forward them children is grown and they blowing trees. They popping pills due to chronic anxiety.”
Cole is speaking to his friends in this piece. He is urging them to stop abusing drugs. Paradoxically, he realizes that it is not easy for his friends to leave drugs along because they are self-medicating to escape the pain in their lives.
Window Pain- Outro– “Shooting up where his granny live. His granny ducks. He don’t give a [explicit], he’s on Henny and Xanny.”
In the beginning of Window Pain, a child explains an incident where she witnessed her cousin be shot multiple times from her window.
Cole airs out the varies grievances of his life, expresses his hope and dreams, thanks God for his blessings, mentions the hurt in the black community, and tries to comfort the little girl who had to experience such a dreadful heartache at a young age.
1985 Intro to “The Fall Off” –“I heard one of them diss me. I’m surprised. I ain’t tripping listen good to my reply…”
As a thirty-three-year-old man, J. Cole reflects that he had the same material agenda as modern rappers when he was eighteen. Now that he is older and understands more, he responds to an alleged diss by another rapper.
Cole reveals that if this artist continues to ride trends and not save his money, one day he will only have fake friends, cars, and jewelry to show for it. Cole brags that he will be trendy forever, because his rhymes are conscious and of substance.
KOD is an outstanding album and I highly recommend it.
I no longer listen to rap morden music, because I can not identify with a life of drugs, money, and women, but I always hold out hope for J. Cole’s products. Cole raps about things that make sense to me like love, insecurity, news, and heartache.
Drug culture is what is trending in hip-hop today and even children are abusing drugs to keep up with this fad. There is a lot of hurt that exists inside of the black community and many people abuse drugs to cope.
If music would stop glorifying a drug fueled lifestyle and opt for a more positive coping mechanism, perhaps drug usage would decrease exponentially.
I sincerely thank J.Cole for this masterpiece. Hopefully, it will inspire a positive change in music and potentially the world at large.
KOD is now available for purchase and streaming. Check your local stores and preferred streaming services to listen to KOD today. If possible, please shop online or locally to own the physical production of this historic masterpiece.