Rap Album Reviews: J.Cole “KOD”
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KOD is the 5th album by J.Cole. As outlined in a trailer before the album release, He stated that the acronym has 3 different definitions: Kids On Drugs, King Overdosed, & Killing Our Demons. Pretty strong titles. But how does the album sound? Does it connect? Scroll down for my rap album review of KOD by J. Cole
The albums opens up with somber jazz instrumentation & a few words from Cole that indicate the direction he chose to go for this album: “Can someone please turn off my mind?/ My thoughts are racing all the time/ There is no reason or no rhyme/ I’m trapped inside myself”. A woman’s voice comes in afterwards and gives a description of the only two forms of communication that a newborn baby possesses: laughter & crying. With that being said, we as people go through so much dismay throughout our lives that we resort to different mechanisms to cope. The last few words uttered “choose wisely” means that there can be consequences with the route that a person chooses.
And here we go: first record in. KOD has J. Cole rapping at a rapid fire pace addressing critics and naysayers who wonder why he doesn’t have a lot of features on his records: “How come you won’t get a few features?/I think you should? How ’bout I don’t?/How ’bout you just get the f**k off my d**k?/ How ’bout you listen and never forget?/Only gon’ say this one time, then I’ll dip/ N***as ain’t worthy to be on my s**t.” Cole is letting everyone know that no one can’t see him lyrically. The second verse of the song revisits Cole’s past & and him getting introduced to drugs which in turn allow him to forget about the things he’s witnessed: “How I grew up, only few would’ve loved/’Member I got my first view of the blood/I’m hangin’ out and they shoot up the club/My homie got pharmaceutical plug/I smoke the drug and it run through my vein/I think it’s workin’, it’s numbin’ the pain”. The beat is hard and I can tell that he’s been honing his craft on the production side.
Photograph tells the story of the addiction of social media & how it’s detrimental to health. The chorus goes: “Fell in love through photograph/I don’t even know your name/Wonder if you’d follow back/I hope to see you one day/I won’t show my n***as now/I’II keep this one for myself/Love today’s gone digital/And it’s messing with my health”. Nowadays, it’s rather simple to preoccupy ourselves over photos of people without knowing not one single thing about them. With obsession comes feelings of selfishness & jealousy to the point that people opt to not tell their friends about someone that they’re crushing over. The protagonist in the record suffers from a lack of social skill which in turn paralyzes him from interacting with his crush because of fear of rejection. This ties into the first meaning of the album title Kids On Drugs.
The Cut Off (feat. kiLL edward)
As the title states, this record is about J. Cole having to cut ties with people who were deceitful to him. In the entertainment business, it’s hard to differentiate the trustworthy people from the snakes & because Cole is generally a caring person, certain people in his squad were recipients to his generosity. Meanwhile, the same people were nowhere to be found when it came time to support, not so much as a phone call. Angering him to the point where he wants to cause harm, he decides to leave it in God’s hands to take care of the situation as he realizes that he doesn’t owe anything to those who never contributed to the cause.
The narrator of this record gives his perspective of his lifestyle that he depicts and is addicted to. From accumulating money and aimlessly misusing it, to the cars with big rims and wild women, every stereotype of the rapper is encompassed here. Within the redundant hook and the overused flow that many of the new artists of today use is a forewarning of glorifying material possessions. The narrator understands that chasing after money will not fulfill the voids in your life but refuses to take heed: “Proceed with caution/I heard if you chase it only results in/A hole in your heart/ F**k it, I take the whole cake and I won’t leave a portion/It’s only an organ”.
There’s no deep dive for this one. The song is the mimicking of a 2018 drugged up “inspirational” song to get money. There’s a Junior Mafia sample present throughout the entirety of the track. The theme of this record is one that is prevalent throughout our communities: to consume pharmaceuticals to overcome the lack of happiness & the demons that are bottled up. “I’m crackin’ a smile, I’m dyin’ inside/My demons are close, I’m tryin’ to hide/ I’m poppin’ a pill, I’m feelin’ alive/I’m feelin’ alive, I’m feelin’ alive”.
J. Cole gives two different perspectives on this record. First, he narrates the story through the eyes of the drug user fighting addiction. Then he weaves in the story of infidelity and how the two are actually two sides of the same coin. The title derives from the comedian Kevin Heart getting caught cheating on his wife. He understands that what he’s doing is hurting the person he loves, but it also fuels his ego at the same time. The verse that sums up the record: “I love her, I don’t want to lose her/I’m selfish, I know that I use her/My ego get stroked and I bruise her/My ego get stroked and I bruise her/My actions I know they confusin’/At home I look happy as usual/On the road I’m a mack, I’m a chooser/I’m a addict, I’m maskin’ that.”
Cole discusses the troubles of being in a different economic status. It is brought to his attention that more people are dissing him more because of his position but refrains from giving them the fame they so desperately want. He is in his own lane and has more serious issues to tend to. He also mentions how he’s a taxpaying citizen and it seems as if his dollars aren’t being used in the right way. It is brought to his attention well aware that the country doesn’t care for his own people, as evidenced by the lack of education in his neighborhood growing up as well as the inflation of gun violence.
Once An Addict (Interlude)
Alcoholism is the subject matter in this record. When he was younger, Cole’s stepfather left his mother and had a child with another woman. This in turn caused his mother to fall into a downward spiral and suffer from depression. He talks about his interactions with his mother & it hurt to see her going through it as he mentioned in these lines: Subconsciously I was nervous that if I came home early/ then what would surface was her inner demons/And then I’d have to end up seein’ my hero on ground zero. To avoid those interactions, he turned to running the streets because he felt that was the best way to cope. It’s not until he’s become more mature that he wish he would’ve intervened more to help his mother with her mental struggles.
FRIENDS (feat. kiLL edward)
This is a letter to everyone from Fayetteville. Cole examines the effects drug addiction has on his people and why it continues to be a prominent coping mechanism. He explains that with the variety of obstacles placed in the way of people and with the stigma of mental health in black community, it can be hard to not use drugs to get by. But instead of succumbing to the demons, Cole suggests that people learn to meditate.
Window Pain (Outro)
The beginning of this song has a girl discussing how her cousin got killed a few hours later after she initially saw him. Cole goes on to talk about all the perils that go on in the world including people in his own city claiming Blood and Crip knowing that the gang banging lifestyle originated in Los Angeles. Acceptance and the means that people will go through to obtain it is prevalent throughout this track.
1985 (Intro to “The Fall Off”)
Cole has reached a pivotal point in his career where he has become the veteran voice for the rap genre. He acknowledges the fact that the subject matter of music has since declined but also advises the listeners that the kids have to be given a chance to mature. Since his verse on Everybody Dies, Cole has become a target by the younger rappers. Instead of retorting, he decides to use his words to offer financial advice on how to flourish & stay relevant years from now.
What makes this album so powerful is how effortlessly J. Cole is able to narrate multiple stories. While rather familiar with recounting the world through the eyes of another person from the previous album 4 Your Eyez Only, KOD strikes a balance between informative & enjoyable. Huge salute goes out to him for touching on the subjects of recreational drug use, materialism, adultery, & depression within the hip-hop community that many try but very few execute without coming off as preachy.
- Friends (feat. kiLL Edward)
- Once An Addict (Interlude)
- Window Pain (Outro)
- 1985 (Intro to “The Fall Off”)