Friday, September 23, 2011

J.Cole - Cole World the Sideline Story Album Preview

An awful lot of hype is surrounding J Cole at the moment, and having been impressed by a few of the tracks I had already heard from him, it was a great pleasure to attend a listening party of his debut album, apparently produced by No ID and released very soon (cant find an official date at the moment) here are the initial Vocalswords impressions..... The album intro eases in gently with some general random chat, which seems unassuming but swiftly an ominous piano leads into the massive sounds of 'Dollar and a Dream', a classic cinematic, riding out beat with a fantastic arrangement provide a great platform for Cole to set out his stall. "Walk with a n--- pain, quick fix, everyone broke" this is an ode to coming up through hard knocks in the game of life and music. It's good to hear a humble note that runs through the album with "Never knowing riches, he's known broke, jeans low with a mean flow" This album opener is pretty swaggertastic but works pretty well. The tempo remains quite upbeat but "Can't Get Enough" featuring Trey Songz is a fairly standard bump and grind led tune that will probably be favoured by many people, unfortunately not me....while I like the amusing swagger and tongue in cheek class of In the Morning with Drake, later in the album, I will probably skip this track on the album; for some reason the phrase 'Beat the Pussy Up' jars a sour note in my mind. Luckily for me a real treat from this album comes up next. Fans of Cole will already be well aware of this track but on listening again the clever song set up and magnificent delivery of 'Lights Please' is a sure fire reason to get this album. Documenting the fine line between discussing social issues and getting more intimate there is something intangible about this track that makes it a classic....playing it to my flatmate he was very impressed by how such a simple set up can sound so good. Sideline Story appears at the heart of the album and is a statement of intent that showcases J Cole's rhyming ability and honesty over a resounding boom bap beat highlighted with a nice piano tinkle; highlighting how it "fucks up a white man's head when they see I got manners". I didnt quite catch the full version of the hook, but again this track will be another good reason for grabbing the album. Unfortunately the out of place electronica and disjointed, unnecessary ostentationess of Jay Z and by default Cole on 'Mr Nice Watch' knocked the so far smoothly running album out of kilter slightly. The pace remains high with Cole World and some heavy 808 drums inject some energy as Cole flips some pretty nice verses of a generally self congratulating tone. 'In the Morning' is, as mentioned earlier, a great tune so take a break if you need and appreciate the humour and production value of the song. Got to love the girls singing along to the chorus. "Lost Ones" brings a well placed slice of maturity to the proceedings over a classic beat that allows the lyrics to shine; some deep refleections on the responsibilities of parenthood taken as a conversation between partners. Cole switches his delivery to narrate the female's point of view and the vicious lyrics and delivery sound like a slap in the face. The track ends with a heavy soulfull hook, mashing up generic song arrangements and providing another example of the diversity and talent of the artist. "Nobody's Perfec"t (ft Missy Elliot) is a fantastic tune that see's Missy in excellent form displaying an amazing voice that to be honest I hadnt really appreciated before. This fairly slow headnodder has some really nice guitar licks and fits in perfectly to the running order. "Never Told" has a spacy, soundshifting type beat with some random word play that appears to be aimed at a girl. Although it sounds quite odd its a fairly short track and seems to work well as a slightly offbeat musical interlude before the final installment of the album. "Rise and Shine" is a highly optimistic tune where Cole documents some of his journey on the rise up to achieving the position he is in now. His workman like attitude and persona gives him an affability that helps this track sound very genuine, and is genuinely a positive and entertaining track. "God's Gift" Has a gaellic sounding, haunting introduction which is soon accompanied by some hard drums creating a very nice soundscape. Cole comes over pretty hard on this one but again, a single listen does not do it justice and I will have to check this one out in more depth. "Breakdown" is a very interesting, soulfull sounding tune with some fantastic instrumentation with Cole in his finest form, waxing lyrical about the temptations that lurk in clubs, stresses and strains of family life on mothers and various social issues and problems. I really need to relisten to this track but it sounded a super dope slice of soulfull music that really establishes the potential of hip hop can be; for me this is J Cole's real superstar track. The album moves finishes up with "Workout" and my first impression was.....really? Another unfortunate sore thumb, but I imagine it will get spins as a radio friendly hit for the ladies. General generic pimp fodder about hollering at big ol chains in a range shaking them thangs. As a tea drinking british gent it doesnt really float my boat but I imagine when Im dandying around the west end and this comes on I probably wont mind gyrating against some nubile young thing while this is playing. Still think it is a bit of a shame as it it slightly tarnishes what is otherwise a pretty genuine heart felt album. So in summary, despite a few blunders this album hangs together extrodinarily well; the music is incredible and Cole delivers an album that bares an awful lot of soul whilst giving him credibility as an authentic lyricst, story teller and showman. This is the sort of album that has long been needed and should put a shot of adrenaline into both hip hop and contemporary music. It would be nice to hear some more lyrical schemes edging more into a political or economic commentary but that's a personal bias of mine, but I am hopeful that as J Cole becomes more comfortable in his role he will be able to expand the scope of his work, and lead the way for a concious, music loving approach to beats and rhymes.

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