Evan Dale // April 20, 2018 

There is no reason to dress it up. You know J. Cole. You know his style, his virtues, his blatantly abrasive views on hip-hop, and quite honestly, his opinions on all of modern culture that have been built up around its central pull. He is a traditionalist, a lyricist – a poet in fact, and a classicist. And KOD is, by every definition, a classic the likes of which only come from the most profoundly influential songwriters in all of music.

 

With it, Cole brings the same intensity and socially-conscious delivery that we always expect, but it seems to be stepped up a level or three. An underlying anger creeps through the cracks of his mellow, easy-going demeanor and speaks from the opposite of the undertone in the bold album artwork. With the subject matter at hand, most of which hold negative views on everything from socioeconomic struggle to success to social media to his ever-present critiques of the modern hip-hop game, the violent and frank demeanor is only natural and fitting.

 

But somehow, with his old-school values and somewhat archaic views on modernity, Cole avoids sounding like your angry grandfather. There is something surprisingly refreshing and innovative about his approach. Perhaps it’s the idea that the lyrically-centered spectrum of hip-hop has been pushed further towards the underground in the last half-decade; perhaps it’s the fact that even the lyrically-centered artists, who have made a strong resurgence to hip-hop’s peak in the last six months especially, fall short in their deliveries when weighed against a veteran the likes of Cole; perhaps it’s that this album, KOD, even when weighed against Cole’s extensive and acclaimed prior work, is exceptional lyrically, thematically, and wholly. 

 

And perhaps, it is quite simply, all of it. 

 

There is no need to dive into our favorite tracks, our favorite lyrics, and the album’s greater purpose. You’re going to have everyone’s opinions on the matter bombarding you for the next couple of months. But, what you should know, and what we will tell you, is that the album will not achieve the acclaim and success that came with 2014 Forest Hills Drive. It doesn’t have the same energy or the same breath of approachability. It is dedicated to its purpose in exploring deeper, more personal thematics, and is a darker, more challenging album than any he has ever released. But all of that doesn’t mean it will not come to be equally, if not more so, important and influential on the future of music. 

 

Hip-hop needs J. Cole the same way that it needs Kendrick Lamar. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong with the new directions that the genre always seems to be heading, but there is something wrong with a blank complacency in the face of such vast change. The same can be said about any of the changes and problems facing the world at large. To it, J. Cole, with his vibrant ability to express himself, his enviable and academic vocabulary, and his style rooted in the sounds of the underlying elements that have always driven hip-hop, creates the necessary competitive atmosphere that has made hip-hop into the most musically, socially, and culturally powerful engine in the world today.

 

It is a top driving force of the world’s culture. Whether speaking of music, fashion, or social and political opinion, hip-hop has its influence held firmly in the earth’s soil. And artists like J. Cole, who are rightfully seated in the hip-hop realm’s few thrones, have influence that extends far, far beyond a music genre. Keep that in mind when listening to KOD, and, like J. Cole or not, you will come to respect and admire the powerful work that it truly is. 

Listen to it below.

INTERVIEW WITH REAUX MARQUEZ

The Nashville Hip-Hop artist is a bridge between the past and the present where rap's most sacred tenants, rhythm & poetry, coalesce with his vision for modern social progress and  damn good vibes. 

INTERVIEW WITH AARON TAYLOR

We spoke on the creative change of pace, on the process of piecing together what’s next, on performance, collaboration, and influence. His responses duly read of honesty, humbleness, and soul.  

INTERVIEW WITH BOBBY EARTH

Born in and permanently inspired by Houston, Bobby Earth finds heavier inspiration only at the crossroads of soul music and love.  

INTERVIEW WITH TESSELLATED

Splitting time between his home and Los Angeles, wide-ranging Jamaican artist of sunshiny vibes and warm-weather anthems, Tessellated is impossible to box in. 

[LATEST]

 

Solange When I Get Home

 

Cousin Stizz | Best in Show

 

Kwaku Asante | honeycomb

 

Ari Lennox | Shea Butter Baby

 

Freddie Gibbs | Best in Show

 

YBN CordaeThe Lost Boy

[DAILY FOCUS]

Solange | When I Get Home

Marvin Dolo | Juicy

Leven Kali | Homegirl

Haleek Maul | Lucid 

Arin Ray | The Get Down

Kwaku Asante | honeycomb

Femdot | Rap City

Kojey Radical | Cashmere Tears

Ciscero | Good to Know

Joey B & Boj | No Waste Time

Smino | Trina

Serious Klein | Lil Capo

[2018  IN REVIEW]

 

Mahalia | 2018's

Best Artist

 

2018's Best Projects

 

2018's Best Artists

 

SAINt JHN| 2018's Best

New Artist 

 

Noname's Room 25 | 2018's Project of the Year

 

2018's Best New Artists

[SERIES]

[NEW IN HIP-HOP]

MfnMelo & Saba | What A Life 

TOBi | Faces 

Rexx Life Raj | Father Figure 3 

[NEW IN R&B]

Christian Kuria | Losing You 

Jacquees | King of R&B 

Bennett | Give Me A Reason  

[NEW IN NEO-SOUL]

Kwaku Asante | Sunday 

Berhana | HAN 

Free Nationals | Shibuya 

[NEW IN ACOUSTIC]

Adekunle Gold | Young Love

SIDIQ | Brand New Day 

Jesse Markin | Folk 

[NEW IN MELLOW POP]

ROLE MODEL | oh, how perfect 

Omar Apollo | Hit Me Up 

Emerson Leif | Wake Up With You 

[NEW IN ELECTRONIC]

FKJ | Yling Ylang 

Tourist | Kin 

Shmuck the Loyal | Hypervade 

[FROM THE VAULT]

[PLAYLISTS]

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