By Nadine Antoine
Four years of gracing television screens, magazine covers and three successful mixtapes: The Come Up, The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights under his belt, it came as a surprise to many why J. Cole had not had an album released yet. After numerous setbacks, Cole World: The Sideline Story was finally released on September 27th.
North Carolina native, Jermaine Cole moved to New York at the age of eighteen and attended St. John’s University where he majored in communication, minored in business and graduated Magna Cum Laude.
The now twenty-six year old is known for his clever lyricism and engaging stories that has gained the attention of many hip-hop elites praising the rookie for speaking about more than females, cars and jewelry. Cole also shows off his production skills, producing about eighty percent of the debut.
The album includes 16 songs with four features. The first, an one minute intro where Cole talks about striving to live his dream. “And when my story’s told/ Let it be known I’d never fold/ I took my time/ I gave my soul/ I watched you shine/ but me I glow”
“Dollar and a Dream III” is a continuation of the ‘Dollar and a Dream’ series that could be heard on his previous mixtapes, an ongoing speech of his dreams of success.
Mainstream record “Can’t Get Enough” featuring R&B singer Trey Songz is catchy and caters to his female fans as he describes his infatuation with the opposite sex. “Lights Please”, a fan favorite was first placed on his second mixtape The Warm Up and was the song that ultimately sealed his record deal with hip-hop mogul Jay-Z’s label Roc Nation.
A close to two-minute interlude describes that moment after being signed, being stopped by the police soon after for traffic violations and his night in jail. “I went to jail knowing … I’m about to sign to Jay-Z … That was the easiest night in jail [I] could ever do”
“Sideline Story” is a song that plays off the metaphor that being music business is like being on a basketball team. He speaks on being on the ‘team’, his time waiting on the ‘bench’ and knowing that his time as a ‘starter’ was coming soon.
The much-anticipated “Mr. Nice Watch” features boss Jay-Z and sounds different from what most fans are used to when it comes to Cole’s delivery. “Cole World” plays almost as the album’s anthem as Cole brags about his achievements and success. Radio hit “In The Morning” features rap superstar Drake and was released last fall on Friday Night Lights.
“Lost Ones”, a record Cole has been holding on to for two years tells a story of a young couple and their struggle of an unplanned pregnancy. Speaking from three points of view, he describes a man not ready for a child or marriage, a young woman looking to keep her child, hoping for the father will stay with her and a friend’s view of the situation. This is the most emotion-filled song on the album.
Missy Elliot-assisted “Nobody’s Perfect” is one of the most surprising features and while the title says otherwise, Missy’s voice was a perfect fit. “Never Told” is another song that shows off Cole’s story-telling capabilities as he speaks on men’s urges to cheat and female heartbreak.
“Rise and Shine” and “God’s Gift” are two records that highlight Cole’s lyrical capabilities and his growth from his first mixtape, released in 2007. He speaks on his career and the attention of being in the spotlight.
“Breakdown” is the last song and is said to be the most personal where he talks about the effects of not having a father, a man in jail and his girlfriend’s struggle without him and a mother on drugs.
The album rounds out with the first single “Work Out” as a bonus record, which got a lot of criticism for being an obvious attempt to be radio-friendly, something Cole has never strived for.
Many websites are reported that Cole World: The Sideline Story sold over 115,000 copies its first day and is projected to sell 250, 000 units its first week, beating out Blink-182’s Neighborhoods which was released on the same day. If these predications are correct, it will be the biggest debut for any act’s first album since Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday, selling 375,000 in December of last year.
This is an amazing accomplishment for a ‘new’ artist whose album leaked on the internet a week before release date.
Must Hear Tracks: “Sideline Story”, “Lost Ones”, “Nobody’s Perfect” and “Breakdown”