An album? Nah nigga I just wanted to talk. Nah Im playing, I got an album and that shit is fucken fire.-J. Cole at K.O.D. listening.
Heres a fact of life: album listening events usually suck.
The music is usually drowned out by the incessant chatter from industry folks comparing clout stories, with the few actual fans in attendance either giving the artist the animal in a zoo treatment with their phones fixed on the artist the entire time. Or, too worried about snagging a whiskey sour before the happy hour is up. Basically, at most album listenings they end up just that; people listening to the album, but not hearing the album.
London. Meet me here today. First come first serve.
In J. Coles usual subversive manner, he upended those hangups by tweeting about a secret event at Gramercy Theater in New York City hours before the doors were scheduled to open with a photo that read: no phones, noo cameras, no bags, no press list, no guest list. For roughly 10 minutes before Cole played his upcoming fifth studio album K.O.D. he presided over a congregation of fans in the dimly lit theater and shared insight into his album.
He told fans the album was originally completed in two weeks, and then, almost reflexively, clarified thats hes not that type of rapper who can make that many songs in a short period of time. Its hard to not see that as him deliberately distinguishing himself from the rappers everyone loves, partly due to their high volume of output.. He let fans know the album was originally going to come out last year, on Black Friday, before he realized he could spend more time on it and make what he thinks is a classic album. He asked fans if sharing details about the album on social media the second their phones were liberated from the Yondr pouches was as cool as being able to say they were the first to hear something exclusive that no one knows about.
If J. Cole ruled the world, the latter would prevail. But, alas, here we are and here are my thoughts on K.O.D., J. Coles first satirical album.
The album title itself can be taken in many ways because it has three different meanings that act as themes for the album. Kidz on Drugz, King OverDosed, and Kill our Demonz are the three meanings for K.O.D. with each being tied together by Coles derisive outlook on the different sides of drug addiction. Once the first song starts, it doesnt take long before you realize this album is meant to take down conventional wisdom Cole doesnt agree with, That includes the criticism of him having no features on his albums, a trend he continues on K.O.D. On the song he viciously retorts How come you wont/get a few features, I think you should/how bout I dont/get off my dick,
From that song forward, K.O.D. unleashes so many societal critiques its hard to keep count. Cole questions the quizzical nature of gang culture in place like Fayetville, North Carolina on one song, pondering how you Blood and Cuz when thats an LA thang? He applauds a young rapper for making money on another song, but cautions him to remember what I told you when ya shit flop/In five years, youll be on Love and Hip Hop, on another song. He even sneaks in an addictive hook in one song that goes: Im a fake nigga, its never been clearer/ I dont recognize myself when I look in the mirror.
On one of the early standout tracks of the album, Cole waxes poetics about the ills of treating mental illnesses with drugs over a somber beat that could rip tears from your eyes. On the song, he reveals his mother suffered from depression when he was younger due to having her heart broken, and it often made him worried about what reaction shed give him when he came home. From those experiences Cole pleads with people that pills and depression dont mix and his remedy for it all is found on the hook: meditate, dont medicate. Yoga Cole, all 2018.
The tenderness and nuanced lyricism Cole dedicated to his mothers depression on the song was reminiscent of his Roc Nation boss, Jay-Z’s revelation of his mothers lesbianism on Smile from his confessional album 4:44.
J. COLE IS DROPPING AN ALBUM THIS FRIDAY WHAT IS LIFE https://t.co/XtWqyYO5sM
But, there were still some moments of uninspired lyrics at points in the album. He rapped, I stacked a few Ms like my last name was Shady. Coles lyrical ability is unquestioned, but even hes susceptible to ostensibly loving every punchline that comes to his mind. Remember, he once rapped, with a straight face, Ill let you feel like you the shit, but boy you cant out fart me, on Dolla and a Dream III from his 2011 debut album Cole World: Sideline Story.
For the entire listening, Cole sat on stage under dim lights bopping his head, mouthing the lyrics, seldomly speaking once the album started; only uttering words to give more context of the upcoming songs or to make sure a particular song transition isnt loss by the crowd. At one point, he explained he wanted to put the album out last year partly because he felt the topics he was covering on the album were timely.
But, by the sound of K.O.D., and the continued media coverage of the opioid epidemic, trash rappers, and depression, those messages will be just as pertinent when the album comes out on April 20th.