Jermaine Lamarr Cole startles his listeners with his snarl beats and smooth jazz
Now that double platinum winning artist J. Cole has shocked us with 2014 Forest Hills Drive, his previous album from 2014, he has done it again with his newest album, 4 Your Eyez Only, which was released Dec. 9, 2016. Cole has built a reputation for remaining out of the spotlight and reserved, that is until he speaks through his music. His recent 40-minute documentary, Eyez, was served to us through Tidal, a music streaming service, before he dropped his newest album. The documentary shows the viewers an insight as to the creative process of the record.
The whole album is a story, in which there are parallels between Coles’ own life and that of a friend. In fact,4 Your Eyez Only is thought to be told in diary entries read to the daughter of said
deceased friend after his death. The friend is later identified as “James” in the songChange. Which is an emotional cry for change, and the message is reinforced by lyrics like, “But the only real
change come from inside” which offer hope that everyone is capable of changing for the better. Cole also speaks about a way to distance yourself from negative influences. Towards the end of the song, however, there is a grim reality that sometimes one can get pulled back into the life Cole raps about in his music. Finally, at the end ofChange, we are brought back to Cole’s perspective of when he hears through the news, James McMillan Jr, the friend, died at the age of 22 of a
gunshot wound from a shootout in North Carolina. The most startlingly, the words from James’s funeral are a reality of situations that many families across America face today.
“A tragedy, A tragedy, another tragedy in the black community… We got to do better, people… 22 years old, this boy was too young…”
In the album’s second song Immortal, Cole raps about James’s life as a young child and dealing drugs, as well as experiencing death at a young age. When I focused on the lyrics rather than Cole’s snarl beats, I noticed that it is very much a reality. The pictures he puts in the listener’s head is filled with rhetorical questions and social insights.
Next in the song She’s Mine, lyrics like , “…cause now you’re here and I just wanna be right by your side” as well as, “It would take more years to get over all my fears preventing me from letting you see all of me perfectly clear”, tells me that James’s is conflicted about opening up to a loved one, and the pain
from his past makes him fearful of being vulnerable. Cole slows the song down
with a piano and sings in an almost soft voice in efforts to show his emotion through his voice.
For those who argue that the album is boring because it lacks the heavy bass tracks which fans are used to in2014 Forest Hills Drive, that isn’t the point of 4 Your Eyez Only. Cole is trying to tell a story, and with more simple beats and a jazz heavy sound, he achieves just that. In the song Ville Mentality, “Ville” is a French word which means, “city” or “town”, Cole is singing about how he struggled with moving from the small town of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and suddenly moving to New York, where at first he still kept the “small town” mentality.
Finally in the album’s last eight-minute song, 4 Your Eyez Only, it becomes clear that James wanted his childhood friend, J. Cole, to leave this record as a message for his daughter in case he was to die.