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J. Cole, ‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’ – Album Review

cole-world-cvrSince signing with Jay-Z‘s Roc Nation label in 2009, rapper J. Cole has been sitting on the sidelines waiting to release his debut LP to the masses. After a two-year hiatus, the 26-year-old emcee has finally released his debut LP ‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’ and it was well worth the wait. ‘Cole World’ is by far one of the best rap debuts of 2011.

Much of the album is bare bones — there’s no big songs with a big chorus or a slew of guest features. The North Carolina MC produced several tracks on the LP, much of which is just a simple beat with a crackling snare and a piano or guitar loop. What also makes J. Cole (real name is Jermaine Lamarr Cole) such a versatile artist is his ability to make street records, club bangers, and socially-consciousness songs that are all cohesive on an album without any missteps.

Among the standout tracks on the collection include the teen-pregnancy lament ‘Lost Ones,’ the Jay-Z featured ‘Mr. Nice Watch,’ the club banger ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ (featuring Missy Elliott), the caribbean-flavor of ‘Can’t Get Enough’ (featuring Trey Songz) and the celebratory ‘God’s Gift.’

‘Cole World: The Sideline Story’ is an impressive album that shows that J. Cole has finally arrived and he will become a major player in the rap game.

You can listen to the ‘Cole World’ in its entirety here:

1. ‘Intro’
J Cole introduces himself to the world. “I’m coming for what I’m owed,” he tells his listeners.

2. ‘Dollar and a Dream III’
A dope piano-driven rap ballad as the North Calackie MC rhymes about fulfilling his dreams as a big-time rapper. “I got the nerds rappin’ hard shit, dummies rappin’ smart shit / Mozart meets Humphrey Bogart with this from the heart shit / Play your part, life is but a dream for me / I get a flash of nightmares when niggas scheme on me,” he raps.

3. ‘Can’t Get Enough’ Feat. Trey Songz
A bouncy jam that features Cole and Songz warning the ladies that they are true players who like to crush a lot.
[Watch Here]

4. ‘Lights Please’
According to reports, this was the song that caught Jay-Z’s attention, which led J. Cole to being the first rapper to be signed to Hov’s Roc Nation label. The song is about women who make the wrong choices in life.

5. ‘Interlude’
J. Cole recalls the time he spent a night in jail for a traffic violation before he signs his deal to join Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label. Crazy how life is sometimes?

6. ‘Sideline Story’
Over a sample of ‘The World Is a Place’ by ’70s soul group Rhythm, Cole details his struggles to get notice in the rap game. He vows to never take his newfound fame for granted, as he rhymes, “I made it to the Roc, even though they tried to box me out / I got the key to the game, they tried to lock me out / But what they don’t understand is this is all plan / It’s a bigger picture and you can’t photoshop me out.”

7. ‘Mr. Nice Watch’ Feat. Jay-Z
You know what time it is! Hollywood Cole and Hov spit some braggadocios lyrics over this bass-heavy joint. Ughh, nice track. [Listen Here]

8. ‘Cold World’
Hollywood Cole raps about his struggle from being poor and lonely to now walking around with fat pockets. “Money was an issue, but now that that’s solved / I ball, I ball, like Kobe in the fall,” he spits.

9. ‘Lost Ones’
A major standout on the album. An admirable song about teen pregnancy as Cole raps about an unmarried couple who finds out that they are expecting a baby. In the first verse, Cole raps from a man’s perspective and on the second verse, he rhymes from the woman’s viewpoint.

10. ‘In the Morning’ Feat. Drake
This is an old song that originally appeared on Cole’s mixtape ‘Friday Night Lights.’ It’s a good song, but it’s a skippable track for us. [Watch Here]

11. ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ Feat. Missy Elliott
Produced by J. Cole, himself, the beat knocks harder than Fort Knox. On the guitar-driven banger, he raps about his chaotic life as rap superstar where he has to dodge the haters, groupies and chicks named Rihanna. Well, maybe not Rihanna. [Listen Here]

12. ‘Never Told’
Produced by hit-maker No I.D., the song is a cautionary ode about infidelity in a relationship and the consequences that usually follows — heartbreak, separation, an unwanted baby and child support payments. Cole does a fabulous job of detailing the drama with his intricate wordplays. We give this track a thumbs up.

13. ‘Rise and Shine’
J. Cole showcases his lyrics skills on this bombastic track as he drops crazy punchlines and metaphoric rhymes: “More than a rapper this a natural disaster / Boy, I’m meaner than Katrina mixed with Gina, ‘Shut up, Cole!’ / This is for my n—as back home, what up bo? / This is for the b—–s that played me, what up ho?

14. ‘God’s Gift’
Another standout track that features a booming beat and neck-snapping snare. Cole spits celebratory rhymes of finally making it in the rap game.

15. ‘Breakdown’
Over an orchestral hip-hop soul track, J. Cole tells three different stories about personal struggles in the ‘hood. In the first story, Cole raps about reuniting with his father for the first time in over 20 years. In the second story, Cole tells the story about a mother who is struggling to overcome her addiction to crack cocaine. Finally, Cole urges a lonely woman to remain faithful to her boyfriend who has been in jail for seven years.

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