2014 is almost over…
but J. Cole is laying his claim for album of the year. He might have a point. Read on for my 2014 Forest Hills Drive review.
For the fire beats and incredibly poetic rap, this album deserves many many listens. It never falters, and stays fire the whole time, even his 10 minute “credits” rant at the end. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is definitely one of the best albums of 2014, and I give it a:
From the beginning, you’re sucked into the album
This review was kind of hard to write, because when you put on this album your first and only instinct isn’t to write — but to listen. The beats themselves aren’t super similar to the ones on Cilvia Demo, but the chill atmosphere set up by both albums is very similar. J. Cole starts with Intro, an ambient beat and a question, “do you wanna, do you wanna be, happy? do you wanna, do you wanna be, free?” Intro is dope, because J. Cole wastes no time killing it on this album.
January 28th extends the beat a bit, but always keeping it chill. Just in case you thought he was only a producer who could rap a little, he rocks the beat with no effort, and even asks “what’s the price for a black man life?” J. Cole clearly thinks of himself as more than a rapper (and by the end of the song, “the god”), more like a poet, and it’s hard to disagree with him. Wet Dreamz is a bit more playful, describing his adolescence, but J. Cole always keeps the groove even when he’s hoping a girl don’t notice it’s his first time.
The first few songs are kind of a mini-concept album of his growth and development
He slows it does in 03′ Adolescence, rapping more about his development and who he is. Shit’s real, and includes a chorus that sounds rhythmically like a Mos Def chorus (always a good thing). A Tale of 2 Citiez brings a dark but laid-back beat for Cole to run with a staccato flow over. It almost sounds like Kendrick Lamar’s rapping over one of Tyler the Creator’s beats, and it definitely works.
Then Fire Squad changes the game
Fire Squad is insane, even the beat. All I can say is listen to this album if only for this one song. I’ll leave you with this if you don’t believe me:
History repeats itself and that’s just how it goes, same way that these rappers always bite each other’s flows. Same thing that my nigga Elvis did with rock n’ roll, Justin Timberlake, Eminem and then Macklemore. While silly niggas argue over who gon snatch the crown, look around my nigga, white people have snatched the sound. This year I’ll prolly go to the awards dappered down, watch Iggy win a grammy as I try to crack a smile. I’m just playin’, but all good jokes contain true shit, same rope you climb up on, they hang you with.
Cole’s versatility shines throughout the album as he seamlessly jumps between song types
St. Tropez then slows the beat all the way down, along with your heart rate. All of a sudden, J. Cole sounds like he belongs in a hookah lounge with a mad chill beat and accompanying harmony, even when he’s saying “lately, it’s been hard for me to smile”. Cole then immediately switches it up with G.O.M.D., an incredibly produced and sampled track that rivals the best of Yeezus (not to mention his Busta Rhymes flow). Ultimately, the track is a plea for those who are on his dick to get off, but he touches on some other issues too.
No Role Modelz is maybe the best beat on an album of mad dope beats, and J. Cole’s (seemingly Drake-inspired) delivery matches it well because Cole always puts his own flavor on his stuff. It’s raw poetry disguised as bravado, like much of J. Cole’s work. He goes on to flex his R&B skills in Hello, sounding just a little bit like Ray Charles over some soft piano and claps to start. The introspective track will probably make even the listener start reminiscing.
No matter the beat, Cole only spits the truth
Apparently starts with a much different piano and flow from J. Cole, who seems to have absolutely no trouble switching up his style at the drop of a hat. In Apparently, Cole thanks those who believe in him. This is another example of him being both confident and humble, rarely arrogant but always bold. The beat wanes very unexpectedly before going into Love Yourz, a simple classic beat layered under more poetry from Cole where he reminds people someone’s always gonna have it better than you, so just be happy with what you have.
To celebrate his dope album, Cole rants for 10 minutes, thanking people along the way. You need balls to end with a 14 and a half minute song, but you’d be crazy to listen up to this point and then stop
Finally, the album ends with Note to Self. This track is 14 and a half minutes long, because J. Cole doesn’t really give a shit. It starts with some nice piano and vocal backing, but it hooks you before long with some dope unexpected guitar. Then the horns and J. Cole come in, and all of a sudden it’s a musical closer before slowing it up again. You have to be mad confident to make a track like this, but J. Cole’s for sure earned it.
He then does 10 minutes of vocal credits, including thank yous, shout outs to Ferguson and rants about sampling laws. I’m not lying. But I listened to it all the first time without even realizing it was 10 minutes cause dude’s just fun as hell to listen to. “I don’t give a fuck if we sell 3 copies nigga we kilt this shit!” Cole isn’t making music for the cash, he’s doing it for himself. Luckily the listeners benefit from this.