J. Cole's new album, "KOD," is a profound critique, and tailored exploitation, on the consequences of addiction in our society.
The North Carolina emcee, whose transition from hip-hop hitmaker to hip-hop activist, followed up 2016's, "4 Your Eyez Only," with a superb record that accounts for Cole's experiences with addiction seen through the windows of his own personal struggles.
Across this 12 piece epic, however, Cole also finds room to tackle some of America's other controversial and polarizing subjects – including the government's response to gun violence, depression/anxiety and the hypocrisies of Black America & urban culture. There's even room for a "lil" beef with today's trap stars and emo-rappers, as Cole also addresses the state of hip-hop with the genre's future artists.
On "KOD" (or depending on how you wish to decipher the acronym - "Kids on Drugs," "King on Drugs" or "Kill our Demons"), Cole encourages listeners to steer away from drugs through the polarizing storytelling and expressive lyrical ability that harbors his own personal battles with addiction during his childhood and adult life.
On "Once an Addict (Interlude)" Cole's vulnerability takes whole when he opens a window for listeners to view some of the emcees most intimate challenges. The song speaks on his mother's addiction with drugs and alcohol and their frictional relationship during his upbringing. Cole also addresses his own addition, both personally and professionally, on "Breakdown;" while also poised with relying on drugs to escape from his opportunistic friendships on "The Cut Off."
Cole also touches upon his success in contrasts to the misfortunes that surrounded his former circle on “Friends.” He combines this concept of guilt and blessing with a stance on how success can be misleading. On “Brackets,” Cole enlightens listeners to re-think about the fruits of their labor and the effects of taxation on our urban communities. Cole offers us a little humor, however, where he references one of Richard Pryor’s old stand-up skits at the beginning of the song, offering another perspective on how money is viewed in our society. While on, "ATM," Cole shows us his own perspective on money and it's lack of importance due to its a temporary void.
And what’s a Cole world without songs about love, sex and infidelity? On “Photograph,” Cole’s swag and tenacity on the mic discusses the mirage of love in the digital age where online-dating sites and matchmaking apps remain apparent. Cole also issues an exposition on infidelity and selfishness with, “Kevin’s Heart,” which is titled from Kevin Heart’s cheating scandal. The song dictates the lack of appreciation men have for a faithful woman and the emotional consequences that are conveyed.
At the album’s conclusion, Cole’s song, “1985 (Intro to “The Fall Off”),” set’s off another heated commentary and lecture on hip hop’s mumble and emo-rap culture. This critique is specifically geared to the longevity and sustainability of emcees set in a genre-trending sound. With warnings of fiscal irresponsibility, a falling off sound, and ultimately, the lost of an audience, J. Cole’s shots at today’s youth speak to his experiences of how rappers have risen and fallen over the course of his career. With Cole’s on going feud with this new form of hip hop, this song allegedly aims at such charting trappers such as Lil Uzi Vert, Smokepurpp and Lil Pump, who have also had words for Cole in the last year.
J. Cole mastery on “KOD” illustrates again how persistent Cole’s dominance has been in the game today. With enduring storytelling, daring vulnerability and profound empathy, the Dreamville emcee forces us to reflect on the gifts that we take for granted.
From the painful consequences of America’s drug epidemic to the hypocrisies that are endured throughout our urban communities, Cole’s activism, through lyrical brilliance and prolific expression, makes “KOD” one of the most daring and intriguing albums of 2018 so far.
Along with stern commentary on today’s rising emcees in the trap/emo-rap space, as well as an onslaught on man’s infidelity, Cole continues to be the exceptional voice for today’s hip hop generation.
Listen, steam and download “KOD” on all digital streaming platforms today.