J. Cole has been on the ‘Come Up’ with some record-worthy mixtapes since his oft-written about 2009 signing with ‘Roc Nation’. From bodying Kanye West tracks (look up ‘Looking For Trouble’), to selling out shows and features with no album out like Nicki Minaj, this guys already a star. Now this Jay-Z endorsed protegee finally releases his long-awaited, hotly-anticipated debut album under the best rapper alives ‘Carter Administration’ executive producer mantle much like Kanye and Lupe Fiasco (‘Food & Liquor’) did.
Now following his ‘Any Given Sunday’ free download and week-by-week album sessions, Jermaine looks to prove himself as one of the best lyricists as he turns his underground legend into mainstream legacy with Cole World-The Sideline Story. An album whose title comes from J’s relation to a basketball player standing on the sideline to mentor Jay-Z’s superstar basketball team (and we’re not talking about New Jersey). With this performance, this player will show the world just how good he really is. From track number one, a stellar introduction is made, just like on his great Jay-Z assisted track; A Star Is Born.
There’s some mixtape holdovers that get their deserved place on the album too. The star-studded, cool, laid back, awakening single In The Morning with Drake off the ‘Friday Night Light’s’ mixtape and the illuminating, hot as hell Light Up off ‘The Warm Up’. Unfortunately though, this young lion’s best moment Young Simba, or his second best in the explosive Blow Up are not uncaged or fired up on this release, you better get the mixtapes. The lukewarm-received, sixteen-month old single; Who Dat also only makes an iTunes bonus appearance, but it’s still worth a download.
The best of the fresh new tracks display an array of awesome music to the ears. 11 of these 15 tracks are produced by the multi-talented Cole himself, who will have a second career if this rap thing doesn’t pan out. Still, J won’t have to worry about that, everything works here from his top single; Work Out to the Kanye West (‘The New Workout Plan’) and Paula Abdul (‘Straight Up’) songs it samples. Songs like Can’t Get Enough featuring R&B’s current best man Trey Songz drinks to the mainstream with bottoms-up chart success, while the young Cole flosses with his mentor Jay-Z on the lyrical, beat breaking; Mr. Nice Watch, which will leave hip hop heads knowing what Flavour Flav it is.
Dollar and A Dream III is a perfect end to a triumphant trilogy, this part is deep, introspective and intelligent. The sub-album titled Sideline Story is another big song that gets the listener closer to this artist than courtside. While the other part of the album title ‘Cole World’ is the centrepiece of this album, an ice-cold lyrical affair that 3000 Andre’s would be proud of. J keeps stacking up the top tracks with the album’s best find in Lost Ones. A track that takes leaves out of Shawn Carter and Lauryn Hill’s evaluative book of rhymes. Cole brings back nineties favourite Missy Elliott on Nobody’s Perfect as the new Mr. Hip Hop shows how close to perfection his rhyme schemes really are, while Missy puts the Misdemeanour aside to give a chorus that displays her great singing ability that the die-hard fans will be familiar with.
Producer No I.D. helps the young rapper identify with himself on Never Told, and if you don’t know about this rapper, listen to this track and you’ll know now how this notorious talent is about to be B.I.G. Manning his own boards on Rise and Shine Cole will awaken more listeners, especially with the Jay-Z endorsed intro and the sick, screaming beat. Jay’s great find and blessing is further confirmed on the cement strong God’s Gift with concrete rhymes showing his spirit and heaven sent talent. Even as the album tracks Breakdown, this artist doesn’t, recovering his set and finishing strong like Mr. Cee.
J. Cole has used basketball metaphors in his mixtape game and Jay-Z’s number one draft pick is bringing excitement to this rap game like the Nets are doing to Brooklyn. On the cover of this album, J is sat between lockers like he’s preparing for the final four and he really is ready for the top. Soon he’ll make his way from the infamous lockers to the halls. With fall releases from other top rappers not generating this much buzz, it’s going to be a real cold Winter. It’s Cole’s world now.