Although hip-hop fans have declared him as one of the most underrated artists in hip-hop, J. Cole has been on a hot streak since his debut with Roc Nation. Having already published two #1 albums in the past couple years, Cole’s latest record has added yet another gem to add to his collection as he continues to pick up speed and notoriety.
As you can imagine, the praise has been bonded with criticism as fans hunger for Cole-features that remained unfulfilled. Regardless, facts can’t be denied – he stands incomparable, adding a fresh, optimistic contestant in the group of budding lyrical-heavyweights offering more to the rap game than just a looped hook and a beat. An appearance on the Dave Letterman Show validated Cole’s steady transformation as he performed “Be Free”, a bitter and heart-piercing cry for understanding and equality.
The project that has been on everyone’s tongue since its drop, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, claimed the #1 spot on the Billboard charts and set a U.S. record for the most streamed album within a week. 2014 Forest Hills Drive silenced many mainstream critics’ tongues that doubted his versatility and ability to deliver; recognizing the sentiment of his craft as he molds hip-hop back to its former roots. Jermaine had social media buzzing as fans excitedly awaited the album’s release. Their anticipation was not wasted as Cole applied smooth instrumentals to his lyrical ability of old-school storytelling. As a tribute to personal issues endured since having his dreams come true, 2014 Forest Hills Drive (titled after his childhood home in North Carolina) touches on many controversial subjects, including the whitewashing of hip-hop, bluntly naming Iggy Azalea and Macklemore.
The rapper’s growth is apparent as he establishes a new standard that should be expected from our celebrity obsessions by calling out those who failed to voice intolerance against civil injustices as opposed to hiding behind money and materialistic lifestyles. Cole unapologetically stood with Ferguson protesters, paying respects to the slain teen, Mike Brown, whose tragic death caused nationwide unrest against police brutality against minority youth.
By way of well-rounded ideals and disregard for playing into the hand of record labels, Cole is setting a heightened bar for characterizing hip-hop idols, a depth that has not been seen in rap culture for decades. The gold chains don’t matter – Cole vowed not to wear them. Cars no longer matter – on the Angie Martinez radio show, Cole revealed he sold his luxury car replacing it with a bike he now uses to travel throughout New York City.
J. Cole left 2014 with a bang and may be categorized, by some, as one of the golden visionaries of our time – only time will tell. Nevertheless, Cole is becoming an icon in his own right through his engagement with the people and his distinct, unfiltered style that has us anticipating what to expect during 2015.
Check out his new video “Apparently” from the album!