J. Cole

2014 Forest Hills Drive

This year, J. Cole bought his first house: the split-level Fayetteville, North Carolina, home he grew up in. Address: 2014 Forest Hills Drive – also the name of his featureless, self-produced third studio album. Accordingly, the record eschews general-experience anthems for specific coming-of-age stories. In 03′ Adolescence, for example, he recalls being college-bound and asking his less privileged drug-slinging friend to get him into the dope game, only to be reprimanded by his friend for his stupidity. 

Except for Wet Dreamz – a cheesy (if honest) retelling of losing his V-card – and the 11 minutes of “credits” tagged onto the final track (only Kanye is allowed to do that), there isn’t much filler. Cole injects his favoured classical strings, jazzy horns, poppy piano and smooth boom-bap with enough bass and stuttery glitch to keep it fresh, while deftly addressing serious themes like Ferguson, cultural appropriation and his lack of a father figure. 

But it’s not quite the classic he thinks it is. Fire Squad is an attempt to counter Kendrick Lamar’s Control verse (it doesn’t), and on January 28th he name-checks rap heavyweights before calling himself God. Consistent, yes, but not the king yet.

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