In today’s instant media-driven world quality can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of pushing the product to the masses. Over the past two years North Carolina MC and Jay-Z protege, J. Cole has certainly produced his fair share of material, providing the hip-hop scene with some of the most sought-after mixtapes over that span. Cole World: The SIdeline Story is the tale of J. Cole’s rise from college student to the next in line for hip-hop’s next generation of anointed rhymers by crafting an album that is both socially conscious and impressive in the craft of the stories he spins.
J. Cole – Sideline Story
Perhaps the most telling part of J. Cole’s initial iTunes release is his development of not only of lyrics and delivery, but also of that most important skill these days, production. On tracks like “In The Morning” Cole creates a breezy, airy beat complemented by his flowery lyrics detailing love at first sight, sort of. he counteracts that with the electro-pop inspired “Daddy’s Little Girl” which delves into the world of young women growing up in dire circumstances. J. Cole’s patience in releasing this latest project pays off as it becomes a testament to his continuous improvement and innate need to do just that. Both in production and on the mic, the assortment of tempos, subjects and rhyme schemes J. Cole attacks prove that he has certainly gotten off the bench and crossed the sideline into the game.
The hip-hop world was first introduced to J. Cole as a kid fresh off his college days when he scored a feature on Jigga’s The Blueprint III album, spitting a verse on the track A Star is Born. Since then he has released some of the hottest mixtapes around including,Friday Night Lights, The Come Up, The Blow Up and most recently the Any Given Sunday series, a collection of tracks passed on for the album.
What I found most interesting was the way Cole demonstrated his progression through the use of earlier tracks originally produced for the aformentioned mixtape releases. “In The Morning” popped up on both Friday Night Lights and The Blow Up but takes on a different tone on the latest release, easing in with the same opening line “Baby, you summertime fine” before veering off and adding small differences in the beat, while adding a hook from Drake. Likewise, “Dollar and a Dream III” is a continuation of tracks by similar names on The Warm Up. The lyrics tweaked and the beat deeper and more soulful, Cole shows his prowess as both a lyricist and a producer. The newer versions of the songs act almost as earlier drafts of a story written by an author.
The album is an instant classic much in the same vein as Jay-Z’s 1998 breakout albumReasonable Doubt. To appreciate it fully, you may want to check out his previous works to better understand the concept that pervades.