11 Dec Brightside Review: J. Cole’s ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’
The Warm Up. The Come Up. Cole World. Friday Night Lights.
J. Cole’s ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’.
Progression. For a long time, J. Cole has been one of those artists in my back pocket, with a ton of reminiscent history, a ton of controversy, and a ton of skepticism. I’ve always been on his side, but for a couple years, he lost sight of what he was. And I lost sight of him. But when “Let Nas Down” dropped on Born Sinner, I pulled J. out of my pocket and put him up on a pedestal. You know why? Because he fucking deserves it, and this new release can make anyone without any past influence realize he’s one of the best today.
With 2014 Forest Hills Drive, I firmly believe Cole has found his place in music. He understands who he is now, and his past experiences reflect upon the track list. There are hints of past tapes, past tracks, past collaborations, all summed up and perfected onto one December album.
There’s also less angst to this release. J. Cole isn’t someone who casually releases projects. When he releases something, the whole world will know, due to extravagant marketing efforts and outspoken promotion on his part. However, this one slipped in without a care whether the world threw millions at it, because this is J’s light of wisdom. The album is sophisticated, political, controversial, and most of all poetic. It’s not just music, it’s a worldwide common thought spread out across a discography of hip-hop.
Let’s also mention the instrumentation. Cole has always been a self-produced artist, and a good one to add. 2014 Forest Hills Drive utilizes much more subtle instrumentals, and a wide variety of piano ensembles and guitar riffs. It seems very natural. Like I mentioned before, the album dropped casually with confidence, and I believe the music on the tape adds to that attitude J is expressing. He doesn’t care whether this is the tape played in the club, he cares that his music is smart. And it is, musically and verbally.
Some of my favorites are “Wet Dreamz” and “G.O.M.D”, as well as “Fire Squad” and “Hello”. However, I have to go with “Apparently” as my favorite. A muffled trumpet rhythm and a political inclination is all I need to know. I love it.
I remember running through neighborhoods with my boys in high school (including Chase) and bumping “Dreams” like it was our anthem. Girls, drugs, booze, the future. We were naive. And maybe J was too. But now we’re all not so naive, and we understand what the art is, and more importantly what it means.
I give this album a solid 4.8. I would do a 5.0 but my colleagues would label me as a “favoritist”. Enjoy the stream of the full album below via Spotify.