Roc Nation signee, and Jay-Z’s protégé J. Cole returned with his highly anticipated album “2014 Forest Hills Drive.” This project marks the third LP for the North Carolina rapper who dropped his debut album “Cole World: The Sideline Story” in 2011. Cole took this albums approach much differently than the normalcy these days. Announcing its release only three weeks away from its in-store date, without any singles, and minimum promotion was a brave move, but more importantly, the right one from this artist.
The albums title “2014 Forest Hills Drive” may have people wondering “what’s that’s all about?” The title is actually the address to the home where Cole spent his childhood. Jermaine recently purchased the home this past June after it went into foreclosure. He addresses the matter on the opening verse of his track “Apparently”:
“Think back to Forest Hills, no perfect home, but the only thing like home I’ve ever known until they snatched it from my mama and foreclosed her on the loan, I m so sorry that I left you there to deal with that alone.”
He’s even more transparent by sharing his experience of sex for the first time on “Wet Dreamz.” Followed by “03’ Adolescence” that tells the story of his summer before entering college where he wanted to enter the drug game, but with help from his friend, he realizes seeking higher learning is his ticket out of poverty.
The album also offers the controversy “Fire Squad,” where he asks the question “Who’s the king?” Although he’s comfortable in his position and declares he is king, he admits through history he will never truly be king. Many felt that Cole was taking shots at fellow Caucasian musician’s Justin Timberlake, Eminem, & Iggy Izalea
“Same thing that my ni&&a Elvis did with Rock n Roll, Justin Timberlake, Eminem and then Macklemore, while silly ni&&as argue over who gone snatch the crown, look around my ni&&a white people have snatch the sound.”
At one part of the album it sounds as though Jay-Z, Andre 300 and Frank Ocean made a musical masterpiece. On “G.O.M.D.” his flow is very reminiscent of Jay’s in the 90’s, while he channels Andre 3000 from an early Outkast era on “St. Tropez.” The song “Hello” has this hollowness about it, as he speaks full of regret. He spends time reminiscing about the good times with an ex who clearly moved on, and just given birth to her second child. The song sounds like something that came straight from Frank Ocean’s songbook.
“Forest Hills Drive” also has the introspective tracks “No Role Modelz,” where he raises awareness of our lack of leadership in today’s black love, and on “Love Yourz,” he reminds you to embrace what you have in front of you, and stop thinking that the glitz and glamorous possessions of others will make you love your life better if had said items.
Cole broke all the rules of today’s music industry. Releasing an album without the proper promotion or leading single was one thing, but in today’s industry where it’s “who’s on your album?” Cole opted out and provided a feature free thirteen-track album that doesn’t contain album fillers. Though many may say he explored a new sound, devoted fans will hear musical growth that’s liberating. The LP provokes thought in this catchy hook, sound the same, and party infused, music industry. No, you may not hear any of these songs in the club, or radio say the least. However, the music provides substance that’s missing in hip-hop. The culture of hip-hop keeps redefining itself, but it’s refreshing to see someone who stuck to the basics. His genius to appeal to today’s music audience was by cooperating singing and rapping together (think content of Common’s “BE” album & Kanye’s “808’s” approach & sound.) “2014 Forest Hills Drive” represents a reflection and celebration of a boy who returned home as a man.