For some strange reason, J Cole is hated by many music fans across the hip-hop genre. Despite this, he is one of my favourite artists in this genre, not just now, but of all time. And here I am going to rank his discography and show you how great of an artist he is.
5. Cole World: The Sideline Story
Now if you know Cole’s discography, you will notice that I am only including 5 of his projects. This is because I am not including his mixtapes in this list.
So, to carry on, ‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’ is definitely the weaker of his 5 studio albums. But don’t be fooled by that, as it still has some noteworthy tracks that make this a worthwhile listen. The most popular of these tracks is ‘Lights Please’. It was the first song that really blew Cole up in the industry and, despite having a couple of high profile features on this album, made him a more well-known household name in the hip-hop world. ‘Lights Please is an almost melodic tune that is a very lyrically impressive track to listen to as Cole manages to weave his way through to bars and tell a story of how he wants an intellectual girl to have meaningful conversations with, but all she wants to do is have sex with him. It is an interesting concept that makes you really listen to what Cole is saying. The rest of the album contains mediocre songs that are still worth listening to, but not on repeat. The only other two songs that are of note are ‘Mr. Nice Watch’ (featuring Jay Z) and ‘In the Morning’.
Overall though, ‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’ is not a bad album. It just isn’t Cole’s best.
4. 4 Your Eyez Only
Although ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ may lack the more commercially successful songs that ‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’ did, it does not lack in consistency.
Almost all of the songs that are on this project, bar 2, are good songs, not great, but good songs. The two exceptions are the ‘She’s Mine Pt.1’ and ‘She’s Mine Pt.2’. These two songs are unfortunately just not as good as the rest of the album. Although I love a ‘Pt.1, Pt.2’ kind of thing (Kanye West’s Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1 & Pt.2, Eminem and Rhianna’s Love the Way You Lie Pt.1 & Pt.2), this just doesn’t work for me. Neither song has really any substance which makes it a bit of a chore to listen to. But despite this, it is still a very solid project. With hits like ‘Deja Vu’ and ‘Immortal’ being the standout songs for me. The reason why this is not higher on this list, is that the other 3 albums are just miles ahead in quality. ‘4 Your Eyez Only’ may have gone platinum with no features, but, like ‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’, it isn’t a bad album, it’s just not Cole’s best.
3. Born Sinner
‘Born Sinner’, in my opinion, is an underrated album. It doesn’t quite get the recognition that it deserves.
The project has a lot of standout songs throughout the album that makes it a joy to listen to on repeat. From the gospel styled ‘Trouble’, to the chilled out, more lyrically impressive ‘Forbidden Fruit’ featuring Kendrick Lamar, down to the thought-provoking ‘Let Nas Down’, this album delivers on most things it throw at you. With the exception of a few skits and interludes, which I’m very rarely a fan of unless it’s Eminem, this album is full of repeat-worthy songs that I myself do exactly that with. Although it is not as good as the next two projects on this list, it deserves so much more praise than it does. I believe this is because it was the last Cole album to not be labelled under the ‘platinum with no features’ meme. It had plenty of features, with the highlight obviously being Kendrick Lamar, but the other features were from a lot lesser known artists like Amber Coffman and Fauntleroy, of which I can safely say I have never heard another song of theirs or that they are featured on. This unfortunately dragged the commercial success of the album down a little bit, as after Jay Z, Trey Songz, Drake and Missy Elliot featured on the previous album, people were expecting more from ‘Born Sinner’.
Despite this, ‘Born Sinner’ is still a very good album and one that I can listen to very frequently
‘KOD’ is Cole’s worst rated album, critics-wise, but personally, I would rate it very highly. It is a thoughtful and hard hitting album that keeps me listening.
‘KOD’ is the most recent and highly anticipated album from Cole and, for me, it delivers. A favourite, and possible favourite from Cole’s whole discography is she album title track ‘KOD’. It is so lyrically insane and the flow that Cole carries throughout the song is incredible. Talking about the struggles he faces being in the eye of the media all the time, and how young rappers and artists aren’t acting like the old-school artists did, by spending all of their money on clout-chasing and not respecting the industry and where it came from. The rest of the album is brilliant as well. ‘Photograph’ talks about the way social media is killing people and relationships slowly, but saying it in the best flow possible. Almost every sentence has the same amount of syllables, making it so catch to listen to. Other tracks like ‘ATM’, ‘FRIENDS’ featuring kiLL EDWARD, ‘Motiv8’ and ‘BRACKETS’ are highlights as well. But the album as a whole really personifies the rap game right now. Mumble rappers trying to get their 15 minutes of fame so they can buy a Lamborghini and a diamond chain with their name on it, instead of the old-school rappers who used their fame to boost communities and create hope for those who maybe couldn’t find it in themselves, those are the kind of rappers we need, and I believe that J Cole is exactly that.
KOD proves this with it’s multiple meanings, ‘Kids On Drugs’, ‘Kill Our Demons’ and ‘King OverDose’, all meanings that point to Cole being someone who acknowledges and cares about whats happening in today’s world of Hip-Hop, and its what makes this album so god damn good.
1. 2014 Forest Hills Drive
This album is a masterpiece of Hip-Hop music. Read this review and then listen to it, I implore and even demand that you do so.
Every song is captivating and every song makes me realise what a amazing artist J Cole is. Starting with a few of the first songs on the project, ‘Wet Dreamz’, ’03. Adolescence’ and ‘A Tale of 2 Citiez’. These three start off the album so well. ‘Wet Dreamz’ paints a creative, and what I’m lead to believe, true story of how Cole lost his virginity to his high school crush, keeping you listening to the outward arrogance and the inward anxiety that he faced at that moment and the moments leading up to it. ‘A Tale of 2 Citiez’ literally tells you a tale of two cities, showing either side to the poverty line and how the black community are viewed with and without money. ‘G.O.M.D’ is another song that shares this view, but does it in a different way. Using Cole’s success, he shows what it’s like for an African American to have money in today’s society and how they are viewed because of it. Site the lyrics ‘Why every rich black n***a gotta be famous, why every broke black n***a gotta be brainless, uh, that’s a stereotype’. ‘Hello’ and ‘Apparently’ are the more melodic tracks on this album, even though ‘Hello’ has an amazing beat drop that gets me every time I listen to it. These two round off the album well with the track ‘Love Yourz’ adding to that theme. But the standout track, and most commercially successful of all of Cole’s discography, is ‘No Role Modelz’. It has the most incredible beat behind some of the best lyrics from Cole to date. Speaking about how in Los Angeles, women chase rappers like Cole.