Review – Cole World: The Sideline Story

Antonio Holley

Hype – it can be a gift or a curse. It has been in hip-hop since the beginning. You see a guy and he has the flow, he has the look, he has the style, he’s got it all. A few mix tapes drop and he starts to garner a little attention from the masses and the media. Before you can even blink, he’s already signed to a major record label and releasing his debut album. Through all of the hype, it’s hard to find a rap artist who meets the high expectations that have been bestowed upon them. There have been many victims of the hype in the past few years; Drake’s lackluster “Thank Me Later”, Big Sean’s mix tape worthy “Finally Famous”, and Nicki Minaj’s abysmal “Pink Friday”. With all of these below average debut albums, you figure that someone is bound to come around and save us from the trend of mediocre, watered down music. Finally the savior has arrived, and his name is J Cole. Cole World: The Sideline Story is refreshing in so many ways.

J Cole has definitely brought his A-game on his first go around. He produced over half of the songs on the album and his progress as a producer has surely come a long way since the days of his acclaimed mix tapes. We start off with the intro to the album; Cole is sitting around with some of his friends and he tells them the story of his rise to the top and all of his struggles to get there. The intro is only 1 minute and 22 seconds long, but it says so much about J Cole’s character and how he succeeded in his dream. It sets the tone for the album, which he follows up perfectly with “Dollar” and “Dream III”. This is J Cole’s signature/annual rags to riches song that seems to get even better with every remix.

Sadly though, after this amazing track, the album starts to get a little lost in terms of the direction it wants its listener to go in. Tracks like “Mr. Nice Watch” (which I will go into detail about later) and “Can’t Get Enough” seem severely out of place. It’s as if they included these songs last second and the album suffers because of it.

The fact that these songs are followed up by the ‘highly anticipated’ “Mr. Nice Watch”, a collaboration track with Jay-Z, infuriates me. Why? Because it doesn’t deserve to be on this album, it feels more like it belongs on a mix tape. Don’t get me wrong, the song isn’t bad at all, but J Coles’ high points are definitely not his bragging, ‘I’m better then you’ songs. That is where this album fails. Too many times I find myself grimacing at how hard J Cole is trying to pull out the hit singles and be the same old average rapper that we here on the radio all the time, and that’s not who he is. When he does become the J Cole that I’ve come to know and love, he shines! Songs such as “Breakdown”,” Lost Ones”, and “Rise and Shine” grab your imagination and really brings you into the mind of the rapper that is J Cole. The flaws in this album are small gripes nonetheless, and while it distracts from what this album is trying to achieve, the message is certainly not lost. That message is that J Cole is here to stay for a long, long time.

J Cole has certainly not fallen victim to the hype: 4/5

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