J. Cole is an amazing artist, but his album structuring skills need some work.
J. Coles’ latest album is not a hit, but it does introduce a new relaxed style that Cole should keep working on. His album has hints of early 2000s rap and includes samples from some songs released in that period. The album consists of 12 songs that range from semi-narrative style rap to rap focusing on wordplay and lyricism.
Overall, this album holds its own, but it misses that special something – structure – which albums need to reach their full potential. Some songs pull the album up, while some don’t help at all. The two singles released before the album, “the climb back” and “interlude,” are okay on their own but are elevated by the surrounding songs.
The songs that carry this album are “applying pressure,” “let go my hand” and “the climb back.” These songs elevate the album, with each line being better than the last. These songs show Cole’s prowess in lyrics and music, the backing track he used in these songs compliments the style of rap present in each song.
An example of this is in the song “applying pressure.” In the first verse, Cole uses wordplay to describe where he grew up, rapping “started my grind where crime festers / And nines showing like they in they second trimesters.” The wording in this is amazing when thinking about Cole’s past; he grew up in a high crime rate city where people walked around with guns tucked in their pants that looked like baby bumps.
The worst song on this album is “interlude.” There is no real problem when played with the rest of the album, but by itself, it just doesn’t carry itself well. The song’s placement doesn’t help either since this song is more of an intro track, but it is placed near the end of the album.
The sounds and lyrics show that Cole is letting off the gas and showing that he can collaborate with other artists. The narrative form he usually falls back on is suddenly suppressed for more wordplay and it seems like he is relaxing for once. The structure is the biggest problem. If the songs were put in a different order, this album would be perfect.
“The Off Season” uses beats and samples from the early 2000s. These samples would be nostalgic to him since he was at his most influential, at his most impressionable state. The sample of Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz “Put Yo Hood Up” is a great example. In the song “95 south”, Cole uses this sample at the end of the song to promote where he came from.
J. Cole is an amazing artist, but his album structuring skills need some work. His lyrical expertise and his ability to work with others opens multiple opportunities just like this album. “The Off Season” is a new, fun J. Cole that hopefully sticks around and expands on this style of rap for a while.