Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cole World: The Sideline Story

It was 6:20AM and instead of rolling over and hitting my snooze button for the third time, I was outside of my house in a pink towel searching frantically under my car seats for a USB cable that I distinctly remember packing up before I left work the night before. My pre-order had been ready for download since 12 AM, and all I needed was that friggin cord so I could put it on my phone and get out of the house by 7.

This was no ordinary Tuesday morning. I had been waiting for this Tuesday for years. I was listening to the mixtapes back when I was working a job at a mortgage company I hated; “The Warm Up” was playing in my CD player the night I drove home after finally breaking up with my off and on boyfriend of two years, and The ORIGINAL “In the Morning” was on loop as I drove to Miami to see Drake in concert right after “Thank Me Later” dropped.

This Tuesday morning was the morning that J. Cole’s highly anticipated debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story officially became available to the public. I avoided all leaks like the plague just so I could enjoy the CD from track 1 to 18 in that order in surround sound on my (entirely too long) trip to work. From the intro track of the album I already knew that this would be a well worth the wait.

Starting with the story of how he got signed, The Sideline Story picks up where his previous mixtapes have left off. Cole manages to toss in a few-radio friendly songs such as “Work Out” and “Can’t Get Enough” for crossover appeal, while staying true to his lyrical content that that we have grown to love him for in tracks like “Dollar and a Dream III” and “God’s Gift.”

Did it live up to the hype?

Ehh…that’s subjective. There is always a ridiculous amount of hype surrounding releases like this, so if the man did anything short of fixing the economy and curing cancer on the album, it would be seen as falling short. Is there room for improvement? Of course. Do I see myself playing this album 10 years from now like “Illmatic,” and “Ready to Die?” Absolutely.

The Jay-Z Feature

For a second, I was a little afraid that Cole wouldn’t get his Jay-Z verse in time for the release which would have been way too embarrassing seeing as Jay practically had a verse waiting for Drake’s “Light Up.” Of course, Jigga did manage to come through right on time to drop a verse for the 7th cut on the album.

“Mr. Nice Watch” hit the radio a few days before release. Though it wasn’t exactly the MONSTER collabo that I expected from the two (lets be real; my expectations are overrated anyway), It’s a grower and I actually find myself humming it when I’m out and about. As first, the track comes off a bit materialistic for a J. Cole cut, but after actually paying attention, you find the song is actually about wasting money versus wasting time. As he put it; “You cant make that back.”

My Gripes:

I love almost everything Jermaine does musically, but I didn’t particularly care for “Lights Please” and “In the Morning” being on the album. I understood the significance of Lights Please—it’s the song that got him signed. But as a long time fan, “In the Morning” came off as a cheap attempt to get a Drake feature on the album.

Also, I don’t know if there is a version of the album that has “Cheer Up” on it, but if there isn’t then they really goofed on that one. That would have been PERFECT for the album...and it even had room another feature (B.O.B. would have done it justice). The song had SERIOUS radio potential, and I am a little upset about it not making the final cut.

My Top 5:

5. Breakdown

 With an instrumental simple enough to vent on, Cole takes it personal on this track and talks about his relationship with both of his parents among other things. I love it for what it is.

4. Nobody’s Perfect

Occasionally, I find myself wondering ‘Where the heck is Missy Elliott?” If you had the chance to listen to J. Cole’s last mixtape “Friday Light Lights,” you may have heard her along with the Late Aaliyah on the chorus of “Best Friend,” and wondered the same. On this fan favorite powered by drums reminiscent of the 90’s Timbaland era, Cole spits flawlessly and Missy blesses the hook with her vocals. It’s nice to see that her talent didn’t depreciate over time.

Sidenote - I heard through the grapevine that this track would be the next single from the album *Fingers Crossed*

 3. Lost Ones

 This is the only leak I listened to and I immediately felt bad for doing it—kinda like I ruined Christmas. In arguably the deepest song on the album, Cole goes into the taboo subject of abortion with the first verse coming from his point of view, and the emotionally charged second verse coming from his girlfriend’s point of view. The album cut is actually re-mastered with more instrumentation, which gives it more of a polished appeal. The original version is one of my favorites, but I can’t help to think that this track would have been much more awesome had it not leaked.

2. Rise and Shine

I think I fell in love with the production on this track more than anything. I think of this song as “Before I’m Gone” Part 2. This track is nothing but straight spitting, with enough space for the instrumental to breathe while he slips in a prayer over the sample.

1. Dollar and a Dream III

This is the first song off of the album, and it sits perfectly in that slot. You can tell this comes straight from the heart with Cole mentioning his mother, older brother, and even his girlfriend. I was trying to find a good quote for references, but I was too tempted to type out all the lyrics, so you’d have to cop it and see for yourself. I haven’t got a chance to check the production credits (my hard copy is being delivered today) but whoever did it went nuts. There are at LEAST 5 switch-ups in the beat and Cole rips all three of them with ease.

Overall, I’d give this album a 9/10.

For a freshman in the game, I would definitely say that he is holding his own and running ahead of some of the rappers that have been doing this for years (coughLILWAYNEcough).

I could be biased, though :-)

Follow J. Cole on Twitter @JColeNC
Follow Me on Twitter @missezturner