2014 Forest Hills Drive takes fans back to the place where J. Cole first began his journey towards the very top of hip-hop. It’s every Cole fan’s dream: thirteen tracks (including the intro and outro) of pure J. Cole with ten out of the thirteen songs having Cole’s name in the production credits. His third album under Roc Nation is the charm of his young professional career thus far. Finally he has dropped the worries of having a hot single and just made the album he wanted. It seems like Jay-Z gave him the opportunity to have most, if not all of the creative control Cole wanted on this album, and it paid off.
Cole is back in his comfortable place, back at his childhood home. This piece seems less like it’s about J. Cole the artist and more like it’s about Jermaine the person. The Dreamville Records leader portrays himself as the ordinary dude from North Carolina he started out as, and a lot of the storytelling on the album is relatable to the average Joe. This is especially true on “Wet Dreamz” which has Cole describing the events leading up to his first sexual encounter. The song is something so realistic and relatable, and is really one of the gems of the album. He follows up this personal anecdote with “03′ Adolescence,” a track about a teenage Cole searching for any way to make a quick buck. What both of these aforementioned songs have in common is a plot twist, and a very effective one at that. “Wet Dreamz” finds the rapper/producer lying to a girl about being a “pro” in bed, rhyming:
“I wrote back of course, I had sex before/
Knowing I was fronting.”
Meanwhile the whole time, unbeknownst to the narrator, the girl was also a rookie at the time:
“I can tell you a pro/
But baby be gentle/
’cause I aint never did this before.”
In “03′ adolescence,” Jermaine tells us he went to a friend who seemed to have it all and asked how he could get to that level. Surprisingly, his friend tells him that he wants to be more like Cole, and that it shouldn’t be the other way around. These two songs really show that the emcee is constantly improving; his storytelling and honesty has hit new heights on 2014 Forest Hills Drive.
The next two songs, “A Tale of 2 Citiez” and “Fire Squad,” give a surprisingly refreshing taste to the otherwise lyrically dense album. These tracks show fans that the North Carolina native can still get down and kill the mic when he wants to. Especially on “Fire Squad,” J. Cole clearly uses Drake‘s “Started From The Bottom” chorus as inspiration and it’s no coincidence that he later rhymes:
“History repeats itself and that’s just how it goes/
Same way that these rappers always bite each others flows.”
It’s also on this song that the rapper famously name-drops Justin Timberlake, Eminem and Macklemore. It’s a play on of words that works very well. Additionally, J. Cole even gets a little singsongy on some songs. Of course he doesn’t have the voice of Miguel or The Weeknd, but “Love Yourz” is truly a feel good track that makes you sit back, feel positive and possibly reflect on you’re own life as the star of 2014 Forest Hills Drive raps and sings about appreciating your own life.
Throughout the album, it seems as if he is just trying to make the best music that people can relate to, and Cole’s honesty shines through and through. Tracks like “Love Yourz” that make you feel better about yourself is what makes J. Cole the artist that he is. He doesn’t worry about how much money he is going to make, he just wants to make the spirited music that he wants to make. He says it himself, if you stick around for the credits on the 14+minute-long track “Note To Self”:
“I don’t give a fuck if we sell three copies n**** , we kilt this shit!”
J. Cole takes us to 2014 Forest Hills Drive and lets us walk around the neighborhood in his shoes. He continues his everyday down-to-earth approach and it works really well in a project where the self-proclaimed “B-list” star seems very comfortable throwing out the need for forced radio singles. Arguably, a few songs could have been promoted as singles (see “Apparently”), but the fact that they weren’t speaks volumes to J. Cole’s goal for this project, as well as his versatility to make various styles of hip-hop music. An element of surprise or something rather unique would have been a plus, but this album remains fairly solid as is. Conclusively, 2014 Forest Hills Drive is a must-have for every J. Cole fan and for anyone who appreciates great, relatable hip-hop music.
2) January 28th
3) Wet Dreamz
4) 03′ Adolescence
5) A Tale of 2 Citiez
6) Fire Squad
7) St. Tropez
9) No Role Modelz
12) Love Yourz
13) Note to Self