Unless you’ve been unconscious for the past two weeks, you’re probably aware that J. Cole released his 4th studio album, 4 Your Eyez Only, December 9th. The announcement and subsequent unveiling of the project was accompanied by the usual fanfare that we’ve come to expect surrounding a J. Cole release, only heightened by the commercial success that his preceding effort, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, attained with that album being certified platinum.
And, based on the sonic direction of 4 Your Eyez Only, it’s immediately clear that Cole wanted to follow a similar formula that garnered him the success from the aforementioned previous project.
Once again, he begins by singing on the opening track, ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’, and throughout, which, despite being a criticism of mine during 2014 Forest Hills Drive, seemed to gain him more plaudits from the wider audience. Cole contrasts the gentle introduction with the aggressive production on ‘Immortal’, within which he depicts the unfortunate reality for some people who live in economically underprivileged areas, via rhymes delivered with high energy.
The trap-influenced production continues on ‘Déjà Vu’, and later on ‘Neighbors’, before switching to a more mellow sound that may seem more familiar to J. Cole listeners. ‘Ville Mentality’, ‘Change’ and ‘Foldin Clothes’ are all pleasant, if not the most exciting, while his attempts to convey the outlooks of a man in conversation with his partner on ‘She’s Mine Pt. 1’, then his daughter on ‘She’s Mine Pt. 2’, are well considered.
The best moment on the 10-track piece is arguably the title track, as the Roc Nation artist exhibits his best lyrical form, neatly tying up the album’s story arc. Despite the promotion singles ‘False Prophets’ and ‘Everybody Dies’, the album track list doesn’t contain these or many other prolonged instances of Cole’s true rapping ability as displayed on those songs, which, obviously, is a discouraging fact.
Regardless of all the acclaim he has received for constructing a platinum album without the use any featured artists, it does not mean the project couldn’t have been improved with some assistance. And, much like on 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Cole has again pushed his singing skills to their maximum potential and could have definitely improved the final product with some support, most notably on ‘Ville Mentality’.
Overall, it’s another solid project from J. Cole, whose core fans will be appeased once again. However, the arguments that some of J. Cole’s recent output can be considered monotonous is – though harsh – understandable to a certain extent, as 4 Your Eyez Only lacks many exhilarating moments.