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Review: J. Cole releases highly anticipated album



Kaela Johnson | Review

North Carolina raised rapper, J. Cole, announced his fourth studio album, KOD, via Twitter on April 20.

The rapper announced the album by tweeting the covers of the album on April 18.

Many fans speculated on what KOD means, Cole clears that up in a tweet:

Cole’s previous albums, 2014 Forest Hills Drive and, 4 Your Eyez Only are both platinum certified, making Cole one of few artists to go platinum with no features on the albums.

The 43-minute album has gathered 64.5 million streams in its first 24 hours in the U.S. and is already setting records. KOD set a new record on Apple Music for most album streams in 24 hours, and clocked a record 36.7 million first-day streams on Spotify in the U.S.

What people think

Erika King

What are your general thoughts on the albums?

I’ve been a fan of J. Cole since he first dropped the come up. So it’s safe to say that I’ve witnessed his growth and progression first-hand as an artist over the past years. I have the utmost respect for him as both a person and an artist because, in the current music industry where we are filled with constant bragging and boastful music, he has always stayed true to his core in steering his message in a different direction. Over the years he has shown us the type of things we should place our importance on, as well as his humanitarian actions,  qualifies as being an active voice in times of controversy and taking a stance.

With his new album KOD, it’s nothing short of the artist I’ve known him to be. However, to me, this album is particularly special because it really embodies how monumental J. Cole is as more than just an artist. Within this album, he focused on topics such as depression, addiction, and government control to name a few. He has a clear message that he wants to share with the world, and by doing so he suppresses the masses. The raw emotion and pain alone in his voice shows just how much of his soul he puts into his music, but also, how far as an artist he’s willing to go in order to reach people with real problems and struggles.

He stresses an importance on coming to terms with whatever we all struggle with individually, instead of running from it and covering them up with substance abuse, whether that be social media, drugs, or alcohol. I feel like God has given J. Cole a gift to really spread with the world, and say the things that not everyone wants to hear, but what they need to hear. He really is a vessel of truth, and hope within our current music culture.

What is your favourite song(s) and why?

I can appreciate the quality and the meaningfulness behind each song on the album, so it’s difficult to single out one particular track. Nonetheless, if I had to choose a favourite it would definitely be Brackets. The vibe of this song takes me back to his ad-libs done on his Born Sinner album which I found particularly neat. But, I love this song because on this track Cole discusses his frustration with the tax system, and the lack of control with what is being done with his money, especially since he loses a big chunk of it.

He mentions how he’s being told that his tax money funds the school systems and infrastructure. However, when he looks into predominantly Black neighbourhoods he sees that children are being streamed out of school, due to funding which he partly provides in order to hire teachers and teach curriculums that aren’t beneficial to Black children.

He further displays his outrage in the fact that this money that’s being taken from him also goes towards companies that manufacture guns, which end up in the hands of police, who senselessly gun down young unarmed Black men in America. To display the irony of this situation, he concludes that the mothers of these slain young men, have to repeat this cycle once it’s time to file their taxes.

This song is deeply moving and touching and I feel as though anyone in the working class can appreciate the message behind it, especially if you are a visible minority.

What lyrics stand out the most to you and why?

“Yeah, I got some n**gas that still owe me an apology. I’ma be the bigger man just like I always be, eventually but right now that’s hard for me. I’m dreaming violent, I can’t tolerate disloyalty. So I’ma see you when I see you, know that day comin’… I pray that on that day you slip and say something. I never fantasize ’bout murder ’cause I’m still sane. But I can’t seem to fight this urge to make you feel pain. I know that vengeance is the Lord’s and it’s not for me, I know the punishment for you is that you not with me.”

These lyrics from the song ‘The Cut Off’ stood out to me because I could personally relate to them. Cole is very memorable for being able to speak from a place where a lot of individuals can empathize. I love these lyrics because they represent how I feel. I have had people that I considered to be like family to me, but they ended up hurting me and turning their back on me in the worst way. When someone hurts you, sometimes you want them to feel the same pain that they gave to you. But through these lyrics, Cole reminds me that revenge is not for me but for God, and ultimately the hurt that those individuals feel every day is the fact that they no longer have the privilege to be in my company.

Are there any underlying messages/themes that you were able to uncover?

An underlying theme I was able to uncover came from the track ‘1985’. In this song, Cole discusses the current music culture in this era, which made me think about the way Black men are perceived in the media, but also the cultural appropriation that comes from the very same cultures that Blacks have created. White people want Black people to look, and speak a certain way because the colour Black has become such a stigma, that it is expected of people of our skin to be “stupid”. When Black men, especially entertainers in the music industry, fit these stereotypes, White people feed into this because they are playing right into their hands. In turn, this keeps Black people as a whole marginalized because these are the very same images and lifestyles that are being passed down to young Black boys and girls everywhere who think it’s cool.

But most importantly, the same things that White people condemn about Black people, when it’s adapted into their culture – it’s glorified. For example, Black women have been lead to believe that braids are unprofessional but when Kim K does braids it’s viewed as “vintage” and “high fashion”. By this White people get a false impression of what it feels like to be Black. This is why Cole challenges individuals who have a platform to consider what impact they are making not only in this world but on their people.

Rating out of 10?


Maleik Davis-Brown

What are your general thoughts on the album?

I thought the production on the album was done really well, I also really enjoyed the themes and messages that were delivered throughout all 12 songs.

What is your favourite song(s) and why?

My favourite songs were KOD, 1985 and ATM. The reason why I enjoy them so much was because they each taught important valuable life lessons.

What lyric stands out the most to you and why?

“And the strongest drug of them all is love”

This lyric stood out to me because love is literally a drug and is one of the most sought out and powerful things in this world. It really does things to you that you wouldn’t normally do when out of it.

Are there any underlying messages/themes that you were able to uncover?

Yes, in fact I was able to uncover at least three underlying themes throughout the album and I know there are definitely more. But the three that stood out to me were mental health within the Black community social media and also just learning to use whatever platform you have to affect the masses and especially the youth in a positive way.

Rating out of 10?:

This album definitely gets a 9 in my book.

 Amina Ali

What are your general thoughts on the album?

I feel like the album voiced inside thoughts within not only me but many other people as well. Each song had a story that I related to and because of that, I feel like J. Cole did amazing with this album.

What is your favourite song(s) and why?

Kevin Heart – this is my favourite song on the album because cheating is so normalized in this generation and I feel like J. Cole really vocalized the temptations of cheating. Most people have their number one by their side but in today’s time, there is so much outside temptations and society’s expectations of a man cheating.

What lyrics stand out the most to you and why?

“I love her, I don’t want to lose her. I’m selfish, I know that I use her” and “But my phone be blowing up, temptations on my line. I stare at the screen a while before I press decline”.

These lines that stood out to me because even when we have a good thing cheating still lingers in people’s mind. All celebrities are doing it and couples that we used to look up to are crumbling because of the trend of unloyalty and cheating.

Are there any underlying messages/themes that you were able to uncover?

I feel like the biggest message from KOD would be that Black men do feel pain, Black men do understand what their doing, Black men do understand the effects of drugs and Black men are still experimenting their way to deal with their personal traumas.  

Rating out of 10?


Image of KOD cover art from J. Cole’s Twitter. ■

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