A couple days ago J. Cole set the rap community ablaze when, right after announcing his next project 4 Your Eyez Only (coming December 9), the Fayetteville native released a surprise documentary detailing the making of said project. In the film, Cole debuted two new songs, one of which, “False Prophets,” seemed to have him throwing shots at Kanye West, who in Cole’s eyes has fallen from grace.
“Ego in charge of every move, he’s a star/And we can’t look away/Due to the days he caught our hearts/He’s fallin’ apart, but we deny it,” he raps. Though this certainly is worth discussing, the unveiling of the project, along with the new tracks, opens up another discussion; is this the project Cole finally pushes the envelope and experiments?
Now of course he doesn’t have to. Cole is widely regarded as one of today’s brightest stars in hip hop and his lyricism is off the charts. But if you take into account that arguably, since his rise to stardom, he’s failed to expand beyond his old-school, often minimalistic sound, then his place among rap’s elite can begin to come into question.
Whereas Drake’s forayed into dancehall, A$AP Rocky’s last project was psych-rap (yes i just made that up) and Childish Gambino did, well, whatever he did with his latest album, Cole has failed to stray from the sound that made him successful in the first place. Now is this because he’s just comfortable making what he wants, or because he’s not talented enough to make a passable project that deviates from what he’s used to?
The latter is probably not true. There’s a reason Cole is where he’s at right now. No one can say for certain that Cole doesn’t have that kind of project in him, but with each passing release that has him stick to the script, the more the questions arise – maybe he doesn’t?
Hip hop is more than just beats – we all know this. Cole fans tend to know this all too well, as the 31-year-old is often the butt of jokes centering around the “dusty” beats he tends to spit on. With the party-oriented trap sound that’s so popular today, Cole is a needle in a haystack; one of the only “real” rappers left who cares more for lyricism and message than how many snares and hi-hats he can stuff into a song – or at least this is the mindset his fans seem to have.
J.Cole is not for everyone …u need a certain level of intelligence to really vibe to his music.
— 🇯🇲🇹🇹 (@BossyAnne_) July 8, 2014
Let’s be clear: you DON’T need a “certain level of intelligence” to enjoy Cole’s music. But as time moves forward, it’s looking more and more likely that you have to possess a certain level of tolerance to the same old thing.
Of course Cole isn’t the only one guilty of not expanding his sound. Trap artists, especially the recent crop, also get flak for delivering the same material over and over again. But since their sound is what’s popping currently, they tend to get a pass. Is it fair? Probably not, but so it goes.
It’s somewhat ironic that “False Prophets” samples Joey Bada$$’ breakthrough hit “Waves,” which was lauded for it’s old-school, golden era of hip hop sound. And while it’s been confirmed that the song, along with the other track from the documentary “Everybody Dies,” will not appear on 4 Your Eyez Only, there appears to be nothing that suggests that the project will be any different from the J. Cole we’re used to. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up to you.